Sweden Survives Slovakia Thanks to Big Performance From Hellberg

Sweden moved to 2-0 at the 2022 Olympics with a 4-1 victory over Slovakia. Although Sweden did not play a perfect game, their big first period was enough to help them claim the victory. With the win, Sweden has guaranteed a top-two spot in the group which moves them one step closer to a guaranteed spot in the quarterfinals.

2022 Olympics Beijing 2022 Sweden
2022 Olympics Beijing 2022 Sweden (The Hockey Writers)

Overall, Sweden played well, but there are still some areas that need to be polished. Here are three takeaways from the game.

Strong First Period for Sweden

Sweden jumped out to a three-goal lead in the first period despite being outshot 14-12 in the period. They got goals in the period from Joakim Nordstrom, Lucas Wallmark, and Max Friberg to help build up a 3-0 lead that turned out to be insurmountable for Slovakia. The three goals were enough to chase Slovakia’s starting goaltender, Matej Tomek, after allowing three goals on 12 shots.

Related: 2022 Olympics: 3 Takeaways From Team Sweden’s 3-2 Win Over Latvia

The first period was Sweden’s best period by far. They were disciplined, converted on a power play, were strong in the faceoff dot, and limited Slovakia to high danger scoring chances. If Sweden can play all three periods versus Finland like they did the first period versus Slovakia, they should have no problem beating their Nordic rivals and winning Group C.

Magnus Hellberg Shines in Olympic Debut

The first star of the game was Swedish goaltender Magnus Hellberg. The former New York Ranger stepped up, stopping 40 of 41 shots versus Slovakia, with 16 coming in the second period. It is a shame he lost the shutout with under three minutes to play thanks to a Juraj Slafkovsky goal, but without him in net, Sweden may not have escaped with the victory.

Hellberg, who stands 6-foot-6, was able to fight off traffic in his crease throughout the game. He did not give up many rebound chances and was strong while playing the puck. Based on this performance, do not be surprised if he gets the start versus Finland in the final game of group play.

Sweden Strong in the Faceoff Dot

To win the gold medal, teams need to do all the little things well, including winning faceoffs. Sweden went 34 for 55 versus Slovakia, which equals out to a 61.8% winning percentage. Only two players on Sweden were below 50% in the draw while their top two centermen, Anton Lander and Marcus Krüger, combined to go 21 for 34 in the dot.

Anton Lander Edmonton Oilers
Anton Lander, seen here with the Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Through the first two games, Lander and Krüger have been two of the best faceoff in the tournament. They have both won over 20 draws and sit second and third in overall faceoff wins during the tournament. Sweden also features two centermen who are both over 58% on the draw and won at least 10 draws in Jacob de la Rose and Lucas Wallmark. The faceoff wins tonight and against Latvia have helped Sweden mask some defensive mistakes and allowed them to get the puck out of their zone quicker without giving up chances against. Faceoffs are one of the biggest strengths for Sweden, and it was good to see them take full advantage versus Slovakia.

Sweden Needs a Strong 60 Minutes Versus Finland

Sweden needs to be better than they were versus Slovakia if they want to beat Finland. The Swedes were undisciplined in the second and third, allowed way too many shots against, and seemed to coast in the third period instead of pushing the play and adding to their total. On the other hand, Finland continued to press against Slovakia and was able to outshoot them in the third period and tack on an additional two goals to put away the game. There were improvements between the Latvia and Slovakia games for Sweden, but they need to string together a full 60-minute effort to beat Finland and win the group.

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