After defeating Canada 2-0 in the quarterfinals, Sweden now faces the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), with the winner heading to the Gold medal game. The reigning Olympic Gold medalists come into the game having defeated Denmark 3-1 and look to be peaking at the right time. This will be a tough test for the Swedes in their first matchup versus the ROC at the Olympics since 2006, but they should be ready and eager to take down the ROC.
Game Time: Feb. 18, 2022 @ 5:10 am PST/ 8:10 am EST
Three Keys to Victory for Sweden
All Wallmark, All The Time
One of the keys in almost every preview for Sweden has been if Sweden wants to be successful, someone other than Lucas Wallmark has to score. However, this key was again proven wrong as Sweden won with the offense coming from the former Carolina Hurricane. Against Canada, he scored the game-winning goal and now has goals in all four games for Sweden at this Olympics.
What is special about Wallmark is he continues to produce despite limited ice time. He has only eclipsed 16 minutes once in the four games, but thanks to his success on the power play, he is tied for the tournament lead with five goals. If Sweden wants to win, he needs to find the back of the net, plain and simple. Unless the depth scoring can finally show up, he will be relied upon heavily to drive the offense as he has all tournament.
Power Play is Key
Sweden has done okay on the power play so far this tournament going five for 19 so far, but they will be gifted a fantastic opportunity as the ROC has the worst penalty kill in the tournament. They come into this semi-finals match, allowing five goals on 13 opportunities. While the ROC has struggled, they also do not give up many power-play opportunities, so Sweden will need to find a way to draw penalties and strike with the man advantage if they want to advance to the gold medal game.
All Eyes on Johansson
The biggest key to success for Sweden lies in goal as Lars Johansson is expected to start. He has played two games so far in the tournament stopping 37 of 39 shots and was the man behind the shutout versus Canada in the quarterfinals. The ROC is made up of all Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) players, so the hope is the SKA St. Petersburg star will have a book on each player’s tendencies. The flip side is that the players probably know his weak spots and can use them to their advantage. Regardless, he will have to have the game of his life as the ROC is a strong offensive team that knows how to generate chances and score.
Three ROC Players to Watch
Some may remember Vadim Shipachyov as a failed Vegas Golden Knights experiment but overseas, he is known as one of the best KHL players in history. The captain of the ROC is having another strong Olympics and was one of the main catalysts behind their 3-1 win over Denmark, scoring the game’s opening goal and assisting on their third of the night. This is a player who knows how to win and will drag his team, if needed, to a win. Sweden needs to be very careful when he is on the ice, as he can turn a game with one shot.
Nikita Gusev has been one of the best playmakers in the tournament. He has five assists in four games, including two against Denmark in the quarterfinals. The former New Jersey Devil is putting his stamp on the Olympics, which should have scouts interested, especially after his strong year in the KHL so far this season.
Although Gusev does not have any goals, it is not for lack of trying. He has at least two shots on goal in every game and has registered 12 total. This is a player that is due for a goal, and if Sweden does not find a way to limit his shot generation, it could come against them at the worst possible time.
While the ROC is known for their forward’s ability to generate offense, Sweden also needs to be aware of defenceman Nikita Nesterov as he is playing some of the best hockey of his career. The former Calgary Flame has two goals and assists through the four games, with one serving as the game-winner versus Denmark. He also has eight shots on goal in his last two games and seems to be heating up at the right time. Expect him to play a big part in the ROC’s game plan, not just in his own end but in the offensive zone as well.
Recent Olympic History
- 1988: Soviet Union 7 Sweden 1
- 1994: Sweden 4 Russia 3
- 2006: Russia 5 Sweden 0
Anything can happen this late in the tournament, but Sweden has a very good shot based on how Johansson has played in goal. They have been able to suffocate the opposition’s offense while producing a strong counterattack all tournament. This game is a toss-up and will most likely be decided by one goal, so hopefully, Sweden’s depth can come through and push them to the finals.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.