Tre Kronor looks for more
Tre Kronor looks for more
No reason medal haul won’t continue
When Sweden lost to Russia, 5-3, in last year’s quarter-finals, it was shocking. Not because one great hockey country defeated another, but because with the loss Sweden finished in fourth place. Indeed, no country has had the consistent and high-level of success in the last half century at the World Championships than the mighty Tre Kronor. Since winning silver in 1967, it has finished off the podium 12 times but has won an incredible 33 medals. Since the playoff format was introduced to the World Championship in 1992, the Swedes have played for a medal every year but four. Why should this year be any different?
Jakob Markstrom is pretty much the de facto starter for Sweden. Having played with the Vancouver Canucks this year, the 26-year-old has the most experience of the three goaltenders. He also has a nice little undefeated streak of eight games in WM play (5-0-1) going back to 2010. Behind him are Joel Lassinantti (who played at the 2013 U20 for Sweden) and unheralded Viktor Fasth, who played in the KHL this year after three less-than-sparkling seasons in the NHL.
Although only 23 years old, Adam Larsson has just completed his fifth season with the New Jersey Devils. And although he is making his senior debut in Russia, he has plenty of junior experience with his country and will be relied upon to be the stud of the defence. The 31-year-old Johan Fransson, now playing in Switzerland, will be another key element, while newcomers include untested Oscar Fantenberg and Anton Lindholm.
No, the Sedins aren’t here, likely saving themselves for the World Cup in September, and that leaves a hole in the team’s offence and its ability to put the puck in the net. Mikael Backlund is playing in his fourth Worlds (2010, 2011, 2014), having won a medal in each of the previous three (two bronze and a silver). Jimmie Ericsson, not a pure scorer by any means, is a veteran at 36 and playing in his sixth WM. Linus Klasen had nine points in ten games two years ago and Gustav Nyquist had four goals in 2014. Linus Omark is playing for the first time since 2010 but should provide a little bit of scoring, but the team has many new faces who have never played for Tre Kronor before or are playing at the senior level for the first time. Patrick Cehlin, Martin Lundberg, Lucas Wallmark, Johan Sundstrom, and Alexander Wennberg have only U20 and U18 experience while John Norman, Mattias Ritola, and Robert Rosen are new to the yellow and blue three crowns sweater altogether.
Par Marts is that comforting, typically Swedish presence. If he’s behind the bench, all is good. The head coach since 2011, he has a gold, two silver, and bronze on the mantlepiece at home, and his tactical style is adaptable to any and all who come to the team in the same way the Czech style was accessible to its players in the late 20th century and early 21st century. There will be no surprises with Marts, and that’s okay.
Consistency, thy name is Sweden. To have Tre Kronor not qualify for the semi-finals would be only because of a blip or two during the preliminary round in which they’d draw a top team in the quarter-finals, as they did last year. A safe assumption is that that won’t happen in consecutive seasons, so look for Sweden to earn a medal of some colour.
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