Team Sweden opened up their 2022 Olympic tournament with a 3-2 win over Latvia. They now set their sights on Slovakia, who enter having lost to Finland 6-2. Here is a preview of a must-win game if Sweden wants to ensure a spot into the next round.
Game Time: February 11th, 2022 @ 12:40 AM PST/ 03:40 AM EST
3 Keys to Victory for Sweden
Stay out of the Box
Discipline will be crucial for Sweden if they want to beat Slovakia. Sweden allowed two goals on three power plays against Latvia, which almost cost them the game. Slovakia does have some offensive firepower despite going 0-for-4 on the power play against Finland in their first game and could easily score a few with the man advantage based on Sweden’s penalty kill play versus Latvia. Sweden did a good job in their first game but needs to be more disciplined, especially in the second half of the game.
Sweden Needs to Play Better in the Third
Sweden did a good job throughout the game in limiting Latvia’s scoring chances up until the third period. Through two periods, Latvia was held to seven shots but was able to fire 10 at Lars Johansson in the final frame. Although Sweden’s goaltending is strong, they can not allow point-blank opportunities as they did in the third period versus Latvia.
As mentioned, Slovakia has some talented forwards, including Juraj Slafkovski, Thomas Jurco and Milos Roman. This is a team that crashed the net consistently versus Finland and made life difficult for goaltender Harri Sateri. Sweden was lucky to get out of the Latvia game with a win but may not be so lucky if they play as loose as they did in the third period.
Offence Needs to Capitalize on the Power Play
Against Latvia, Sweden went 1-for-5 with the man advantage. They were not able to generate a ton of shots or scoring chances against a very good Latvian penalty kill. Slovakia is not a great penalty kill team so Sweden needs to capitalize when on the power play. Versus Finland, Slovakia went 1-for-3 on the penalty kill, which was the same as Sweden went versus Latvia. Special teams will most likely decide this game, with Sweden’s power play being a major factor in the game.
3 Slovakians to Watch
The 17-year-old started the tournament off with a bang as he potted two goals against Finland in just 12:57 of ice time. The 2022 NHL Draft Prospect should get some additional ice time after his strong performance and should be a major factor in this game. Sweden needs to ensure they know when Slafkovski is on the ice and ensure they have a special matchup to limit his opportunities.
Martin Marincin is Slovakia’s top defender and their best offensive weapon from the point. The former Toronto Maple Leaf recorded four shots on goal versus Finland and was used as a shutdown defender against Finland’s top players. Sweden needs to be aware when he is on the ice as the 6-foot-4, 209-pound defender is not afraid to play physically. Expect him to match up against Anton Lander’s line throughout the game.
Tomas Jurco had a good game against Finland recording five shots on goal in 15:58 of ice time. The former Edmonton Oiler played on a line with Marek Hrivík and Peter Cehlárik for most of the night and will be expected to help drive the offence versus Sweden. The former Memorial Cup champion knows how to score goals and will be looking to pot home his second-ever Olympic goal versus Sweden.
The Olympics present a big opportunity for Jurco as it may be his ticket back to the NHL. Over the past few seasons, he bounced between the NHL and American Hockey League before deciding to move to the Kontinental Hockey League this season. At 29, he is still young enough that a team may be interested in the sniper, and a good game against Sweden may help draw some NHL scout’s attention to him.
Note: Results are only shown for games featuring Sweden versus Slovakia and exclude games versus Czechoslovakia.
- 1994 Slovakia 4, Sweden 4
- 2006: Slovakia 3, Sweden 0
- 2010: Slovakia 4, Sweden 3
Based on the way Sweden played versus Latvia, this game should be close down to the end. Sweden is ranked higher in the world rankings, but Slovakia upsetting them is a very real possibility. Regardless, Sweden should be able to pull out the win and improve to 2-0 at the Olympics.
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 https://www.area51sportsnetwork.com/ where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.