Ten Chicago Blackhawks traveled to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Games this month. Six will play for gold on Sunday morning: Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp for Team Canada, and Marcus Kruger, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya for Team Sweden.
Our neighbors to the north are feeling pretty good this Friday afternoon, coming off their tight yet entertaining 1-0 victory over Team USA in the semifinal round. Considering Team Canada’s offensive firepower, their goaltending, their size, their deep roster, you’d give them the big edge, right? Well, we’re not so sure.
Team Sweden enters Sunday’s game the underdog, certainly. Its pool wasn’t the strongest. They’ve lost players, including Henrik Zetterberg during the tournament and Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen before it began.
[PHOTOS: Canada shuts out USA in semifinals]
But let’s not write off Team Sweden yet. As they’ve shown throughout this tournament, the Swedes haven’t used injuries as an excuse; they’ve just kept winning. They pulled another one out again on Friday morning, edging Finland 2-1 to earn a spot in the gold-medal game.
Much like Team Canada, Sweden got to the final game defense and goaltending. One of the biggest moments was Sweden shutting down the Finns on more than a minute of a 5-on-3. Shouldn’t be a surprise to Blackhawks fans that the three starting that successful kill were Kruger, Hjalmarsson and Oduya.
The Swedes won’t be intimidated. They won’t be wide-eyed against Team Canada. Despite their great recent history at the Olympics (gold medal winners in 1994 and 2006) they’re still the underdogs against a healthy Canadian squad.
Hey, it’s not going to be a surprise if the Canadians win this one; they’re determined to defend their 2010 gold and that showed in their victory over the U.S. But we’re not seeing a lopsided game here in the gold-medal game. We see Sweden giving Canada everything it’s got, and that everything might just lead it to gold.