Niklas Hjalmarsson had a quick and definite answer to the question, “Have you readjusted to this time zone again?”
“Not at all,” he said with a laugh. “I felt good on the ice. But today I’m going to drink 20 cups of coffee, try to stay awake until 10 tonight and hopefully get a good night’s sleep.”
All jet lag and not sleeping in aside, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Swedish contingent thoroughly enjoyed its time over at the Winter Olympics. They didn’t come back with the gold medal — Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger took silver — but the experience was nevertheless a rewarding one.
“We wanted that gold but we weren’t close to winning that game (against Team Canada),” Hjalmarsson said. “It would’ve been different if we were losing in overtime or something like that, if we were actually close. But (Canada) really deserved to win. It was a good tournament; I’m pretty proud, to be honest with you.”
Kruger echoed the same sentiments. He said he hasn’t struggled too bad readjusting — “getting home in the morning and then trying to stay up as long as I could.” As for the tournament, it was a pleasure for the first-time Olympian.
“It was a great experience going there and playing for my country; a great atmosphere,” Kruger said. “I’m happy with that experience. We wanted a gold (medal), that’s why we went. We didn’t achieve that, but it was a great experience.”
Considering the player losses the Swedes had, be it entering the Games or during them, their silver-medal finish is that much more impressive. Team Canada, however, brought Sweden’s momentum to a screeching halt in its 3-0 victory. As Hjalmarsson said, the loss was tough immediately following but didn’t linger, given Canada’s domination in the game. Hjalmarsson said (and Kruger agreed) that Team Canada was “the best team I ever played against.”
“Especially in their own zone; we didn’t have a lot of chances throughout,” Hjalmarsson said of Canada’s stifling defense, which allowed just three goals the entire tournament. “We were disappointed right after the game but we all came away pretty satisfied with the silver. Canada had a really good performance; it was a tough team to beat.”
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Hjalmarsson said he felt better getting back on the ice on Wednesday, when all but two Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith) skated. Much like Michal Rozsival the other day, Hjalmarsson hopes the skate will lead to his first good night’s sleep since returning.
“I haven’t been sleeping good at all the last two nights, but that’s usually how it is,” he said. “Hopefully I can get back (to normal). Game-day routines help, too. Once the game starts (on Thursday), it’ll be easy to adjust.”