STOCKHOLM – Ten years ago Denmark burst upon the international hockey scene at the 2003 World Championship. With a win over Team USA and a tie against Canada, Denmark set the stage for an improbable debut on the elite stage that’s lasted a decade.
With each passing season, Denmark has developed players who have gone to play in the NHL and have become a highly regarded team not to be taken lightly.
The 2012 World Championship was a bit disappointing with a 13th-place finish. The Danes would like to replicate if not improve on their showing at the 2010 World Championship where they finished eighth.
Patrick Galbraith has the most experience of the three goalies Denmark is carrying on their roster. Galbraith has logged 17 games at the World Championships, with his best numbers coming in Bratislava 2011 where his goals against average was 2.01. Denmark has to hope that Galbraith replicates his performance from 2010 when he shut down the Americans 2-1 and shut out the Slovaks 6-0.
If Galbraith falters Denmark will have to try one of its two largely untested netminders. Between Sebastian Dahm and Simon Nielsen they have one game played each in World Championship competition.
Denmark presents a mix of defenders currently playing in the NHL, AHL, Swedish Elitserien, Allsvenskan, German DEL and the domestic AL Bank Ligaen.
Oliver and Markus Lauridsen arrive just in time from their North American experience. Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Oliver Lauridsen is very big and physically strong. He can be tough to move off the puck and will work hard in his own end of the ice. He helps elevate Denmark’s defence, giving it a new look it has been missing for some time – a shut-down defenceman. His development this season in the AHL and then NHL has been remarkable.
Markus Lauridsen is fresh of his experience with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters where he contributed 12 assists in 36 games. Denmark will need greater contribution from the defence in contributing offence, especially on the power play.
Collectively, Danish defencemen did not score a goal and combined for six assists. Puck moving defenceman Philip Larsen should help in key situations. He needs to be the quarterback on the power play. Last year he registered 25 minutes of ice time for Denmark and led the team with 23 shots on goal.
Denmark will need for its forwards to step things up. Last year they had serious scoring troubles. Overall Denmark scored 13 goals in the tournament over its seven games. Denmark also had trouble scoring at the Olympic Qualification in February, losing to Slovenia 2-1.
Missing from this year’s roster is leading scorer Lars Eller, who is in the middle of the NHL playoffs as are other key performers Jannik Hansen, Frans Nielsen and Peter Regin. Denmark will have to do it with their core veterans who have proved capable in the past.
Morten Green scored three goals and four points. His goal output tied Eller for the team lead. He also scored the game winner in Denmark’s lone win of the tournament last year. After spending the last decade playing in Sweden, Green made the jump to Germany this season as a member of the Hannover Scorpions.
Nichlas Hardt scored two timely goals, both on the power play in last year’s tournament.
Mikkel Bødker joins the team from the Phoenix Coyotes. In two World Championship appearances (his last in 2011), Bødker has scored six goals. He becomes an important cog in the machine that is the Danish offenee.
Hard to believe that this will be Morten Madsen’s eighth time representing his country and still he’s only 26.
Per Bäckman is a former Swedish player who guided Fàrjestad Karlstad, AIK Stockholm, Malmö, and MODO in the Elitserien, and Zug in the Swiss NLA. He won three Elitserien championship titles including two with Farjestad and one with AIK.
Bäckman’s challenge is to have his team ready to play and not still focused on the disappointment of not winning the Olympic Qualification on home ice. When last Denmark missed the chance to make the 2010 Olympics they came back with a strong showing at the World Championship, including its best finish to date: eighth place.
Denmark needs to stay competitive against the top teams in its group and beat the teams they know they are capable of beating. Starting the tournament against Canada and then facing Norway means they must immediately put their best efforts forward and build confidence with each game. But wins come from creating offence and shutting down opponents – two things Denmark did not do well last year.