It comes down to this: Sweden vs. Canada for the right to bring gold medals back to their respective countries. Chicago Blackhawks fans should still have a rooting interest, given the six players split between the two teams.
For Sweden, this is a chance to topple the defending gold medalists. For Canada, it’s the opportunity to defend said gold medal and add a few more to the collection. It’ll be tight, it’ll be interesting – and given the early start time (6 a.m. Central) let’s hope it’s entertaining.
[MYERS: It was gold or bust for Team USA]
So while Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya get their rest, we set our coffee timers and look at the Five Things to watch for in Sunday morning’s Canada-Sweden game.
1. Officially watching the officials. Well, Team Sweden’s brass will probably have a keener eye on them on Sunday. If you haven’t heard or read, three of the four officials for Sunday’s game are Canadian-born. The fourth, who was born in the U.S., lives in Canada. Yeah, some of the Swedes aren’t too happy about this; former NHL great Peter Forsberg had a very blue reaction to it (it’s in the story). We’re guessing the officials will be mindful of this whole kerfuffle and will probably err on the side of (overt) caution. Here’s hoping the officials don’t become a factor.
2. Defense vs. defense. Team Canada is here because it shut down Team USA’s offense, which had been thriving to that point. Team Sweden is here for its defensive moxie, too. One of its biggest moments against Finland on Friday morning came on a minute-plus of 5-on-3, with Sweden on the short end. Show of hands who’s surprised Hjalmarsson, Kruger and Oduya were the first ones out there killing. We think each team is going to make it defensively tough on the other.
3. The goaltending factor. Oh, these two are going to be in the spotlight on Sunday morning. Henrik Lundqvist has been stellar for Team Sweden, save that stinker he gave up to Finland on Friday morning – hey, even he admitted it was a bad one. Who bests who on Sunday? Seriously, we’re asking.
4. Depth making a difference? This is where Team Canada definitely has the edge over Team Sweden. The Swedes have their injuries, be it players lost during the tournament or before it even began. Credit them for how they’ve played, despite that depth (please defense, Lundqvist references). But it may prove costly against Team Canada, which is deep.
5. Our pick to click is: Lundqvist. You heard us. May just be a hunch or the desire to go against the grain here, but got a feeling Team Sweden could pull off the upset on Sunday morning. Get your butts out of bed early to find out.