STOCKHOLM – Tonight's quarter-final game brings together two long-time rivals in Sweden and the Czech Republic. When these teams met twelve days ago, Sweden won 4-1. Since 2000, these teams have met nine times in World Championship competition with Sweden holding a 5-4 edge in games won.
Sweden’s forward lines are balanced. Look up and down the lineup and you’ll find any number of players who can score timely goals and play effective two-way hockey. A balance of NHL and Swedish Elitserien players have shown chemistry which will be needed if Sweden is to advance.
Veterans Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg have been good without having to carry the entire load. Zetterberg has quietly had an effective World Championship tournament. He’s scored two goals and 13 points.
Loui Eriksson leads the team in scoring with four goals.
Viktor Fasth has been very good except for the blowout loss to Russia. The defence has played well in front of him but when called upon to make big saves against Russia, he was shelled for seven goals. Still, his goals against, 2.00, two shutouts and four wins place him among the top goalies in this tournament.
Erik Karlsson has arrived. After his breakthrough season with Ottawa, he has been sublime here adding three goals and seven points
Sweden’s power play is the best in the tournament with 12 goals and 36% efficiency. Both Karlsson and Eriksson are tied for the team lead with three.
The Czech Republic has come into this tournament with little fanfare. They’ve won the games they are supposed to and lost two big tests to Russia and Sweden. Now they get the chance to make up for that loss to Sweden by besting their rivals in the quarter-final.
Ales Hemsky has carried the scoring load with five goals but after that there’s a drop off with six players tied for second with two goals. But Martin Erat should help take some of the pressure off Hemsky. Since arriving Erat has two goals in three games.
The Czechs special teams have been performing well. The penalty kill is ranked fifth in the tournament but first among teams here in Stockholm.
The Czech Republic has been one of the best defensive teams in the tournament. They’ve given up the second least number of goals.
Goaltending has also carried the day. Jakub Stepanek and Jakub Kovar have split duties and both have been among the tournament’s best goaltenders. Stepanek’s goals against average is 1.41 and Kovar 1.47.
When these two teams meet, it’s always a competitive affair. Forget about the results from earlier in the tournament and focus instead on the sixty minutes of hockey to come. It promises to be a very close game.