Is Denmark a Dark Horse?

Denmark’s victory celebration has now become the stuff of legends. But even more remarkable than the celebrating is the fact they’ve won two games, and sit in a fantastic position in group B at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

After getting blown out by Sweden in their first round robin game, the Danes have been resilient, rattling off two consecutive wins, despite being outshot heavily. They now sit in second place in the group with five points and one game to go vs. Switzerland. If they continue to get strong goaltending, can this Denmark squad surprise?

Denmark Excels on the Penalty Kill

Part of Denmark’s success has been due to their special teams. They’re perfect on the penalty kill, and they scored a power play marker to tie the game against the Czech Republic. For a team that doesn’t generate a tonne of shots, finding a way with the man advantage is crucial. But it’s their ability to kill penalties that has garnered attention. The players understand how important attention to detail is, and they have been playing to their strengths.

“We’re a small country, so it’s amazing. We know that we are a strong skating team. When we meet big opponents we know we just need to go out there and skate as hard as we can. That paid off. We have played two good games now. So we’re probably going to win the next one too.” – said forward Joachim Blichfeld.

The overtime winner was an absolute beauty from Chicago Blackhawks 143rd overall pick in 2016 Mathias From. He undressed the Czech defender and roofed a backhander over the shoulder of Boston Bruins prospect Daniel Vladar.

Denmark has never medalled at the World Juniors, but they did advance to the knock-out stage the last two years. Perhaps we should start to consider the Danes more of a threat on the world stage, especially considering the notable NHLers that hail from the country. Nikolaj Ehlers, Jannik Hansen, Frans Nielson and Frederik Andersen all play key roles on their NHL club, and many of the young players on the World Junior team are legitimate prospects.

Can They Beat Switzerland?

Finland’s loss to rival Sweden took the heat off of the Danes, but they’ll still be looking to finish strong. Seeding will be crucial for Denmark heading into the knock-out phase, making their tilt with the Swiss all the more important. Right now, they’re tied with the Czech’s in points, and the Swiss still have two games to play. (The Czech Republic’s final match-up is against Sweden on Saturday). If Denmark can perhaps avoid Canada, Sweden and the USA in the next round, might they have a shot to advance further?

In terms of the game aginst Switzerland, it could go either way. Both teams struggle to generate scoring chances, but they’ve been able to capitalize on their chances. Switzerland has had a good tournament in their own right with a loss and overtime win on their resume. If they find a way to beat Denmark and then overcome the hapless Finns, they may end up in second place in the group.

Denmark’s last round robin game is going to be huge not only in terms of seeding but also because we can’t get enough of those locker room celebrations.