Dahm in imposing form
Danish goalie Sebastian Dahm was the star of his team’s qualifying round. The Graz 99ers netminder was in sensational form, with his stellar displays in the wins over Norway and the Czech Republic going a long way to sending his country to only its second quarter-final.
In six games during the group phase in Moscow, Dahm gave up just 12 goals from 220 shots – the kind of form that inevitably attracts attention from scouts.
But the modest 29-year-old Copenhagen native is quick to pay tribute to his colleagues – and after a group stage that saw the pre-tournament favourites asked some searching questions by the supposed outsiders, he reckons the nature of hockey is beginning to change.
“These days a lot of teams are playing a more structured defence and working much harder to help their goalies,” he said after a game-winning display against Norway early in the competition. “The goaltending position has got a lot more structured as well.”
And while some might argue that leads to low-scoring games and dull hockey, Dahm is having none of that. “There’s not a lot of easy goals being given up in this game anymore,” he added.
“That just means that there’s points to be won in any game in,” Dahm added. “Every time we go out and play like we can get points, even when it’s against Russia or Sweden or the Czechs.”
The early encounters went some way to setting the tone for how the competition would go. Each of the first four games saw a stellar display between the piping, from Dahm and Dominik Furch shutting out Norway and Russia respectively, to Latvia’s Elvis Merzlikins and Kazakhstan’s Vitali Kolesnik denying Sweden and Switzerland in games that went into overtime.
“Every year is different and sometimes we see the forwards get off to a killer start but this year the puck started out bouncing for the defence a little bit,” Dahm added. Even if the scoring picked up – Russia was especially ruthless in racking up a 22-4 goal difference over its last four games including a 10-1 drubbing of Denmark as Dahm was rested – his form remained steady.
That drew praise from his team-mates, with Morten Madsen quick to point out that there’s nothing new about Dahm’s imposing presence between the piping.
“Sebastian’s been awesome,” he said. “But he was awesome last year in Ostrava as well. Since then he went on and had a good year down in Austria.
“He takes his game very seriously and we know he’ll keep stopping the puck for us.”
But the man himself was equally impressed with the way the team, bolstered by a rare crop of NHL talent making itself available for the championship, showed more ambition than in previous seasons.
“Compared to last year there’s a clear change in our style,” Dahm said after the vital shoot-out win over the Czech Republic. “We’re not just sitting back and defending, we’re trying to push up the ice and create more chances, even against the bigger teams.
“It’s a bit more exciting, even if sometimes we get smoked. But it’s the only way we can progress as a hockey nation at this level.”
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