STOCKHOLM – Sweden has a chance to become the first team since 1986 to win the World Championship on home ice. Standing in the way is an incredible story of the Swiss national team whose narrative includes a nine-game unbeaten streak at the 2013 World Championship and this being the most important game in the nation’s hockey history.
Balanced attack: Switzerland has six players with three or more goals scored and eleven players with five or more points. Switzerland gets scoring from a number of areas and that has been one of the keys to their success. Sweden will have to key in on very many possible offensive contributors for the Swiss.
Defence: Switzerland opponents have averaged 25 shots per game. In their game against Team USA in the semi-finals, Switzerland’s defensive coverage was perhaps the best it has been in this tournament. They choked off opportunities by the Americans and blocked shots, making it tough for any significant scoring chances down low. Testament to the commitment to defence is that only 11 goals have been surrendered in nine games.
Power play: Switzerland has the most efficient power play in the tournament and the lead in power play goals scored with ten. Again, there is balance here as the ten goals have come from nine different scorers. They have been good in using the man advantage to establish leads over the nine games.
Players to watch
Roman Josi: Defenceman Josi is tied for the team lead in scoring. He’s showed offensive instincts from the blueline that makes the Swiss line-up even more dangerous. Production from Josi at the point has come at important times in the tournament. In his fourth World Championship, this is his very best. Josi is coming into his own as a player in the NHL and the effort here further makes the case.
Nino Niederreiter: A difficult season in North America ends with a gold medal game appearance. Niederreiter was not extended an invitation by the New York Islanders to attend training camp and the Chur native must have been disappointed. His five goals and eight points, including stepping it up in the big games here, will work to his favour in the fall.
Martin Gerber/Reto Berra: Gerber and Berra stand out as 1 and 1A. Both have combined for the eye-popping goals against statistic in the tournament. Gerber’s five wins and 1.38 goals against average is second in the tournament to Berra’s four wins and 1.00.
Fan support: Games at the Globe Arena where Sweden has played throughout the tournament offers tremendous fan support. With the gold medal on the line, expect the crowd to be more boisterous than usual.
The Sedins System: So it comes down to this: Roll out the Sedins line and let them work. So far, the dynamic duo has teamed with Loui Eriksson to form a potent line combination that was missing for the first half of the tournament. It’s not a stretch to say that without the Sedins working their magic Sweden wouldn’t be here.
Opportunity Knocks: Sweden has picked up its power play. With four man advantage goals in the last two games, they are finally clicking. As Henrik Tallinder noted after their last game against Finland: “We have the Sedin twins on the power play and they put a lot of respect in the other opponents. They are playing with so much skill and so much poise, it is fun to see. Now we have a power play that is really dangerous. We did not have that before the twins showed up.”
Players to watch
Loui Eriksson: Consider this a tale of two tournaments for Eriksson. Before the Sedins arrived he totaled a goal and three points in his first six games. After being added to a line with the Sedins, Eriksson has three goals and six points in three games. They have brought out the best in Eriksson who now seems confident.
Jhonas Enroth: Talk to any Team Sweden player and they will tell you that Enroth is the engine that drives the car. His preparedness, focus and determination have been important as Sweden’s last line of defence. Along with the Swiss goaltending duo, Enroth is making a case for best goalie of the tournament. Enroth’s goals against is 1.17 along with two shutouts and five wins.
Fredrik Pettersson: The Gothenburg product is having a noteworthy tournament after a nondescript World Championship debut in 2010. He has three goals but two of them are game winners. Petterson’s game winning shootout goal was his most significant to date as it eliminated a tournament favourite in Canada.