Russia Wins Bronze, Sweden Leaves Empty-Handed

A bronze medal should never be seen as a consolation prize. Making the final four in of itself is an accomplishment. In fact, in order to capture bronze, you have to win, thus ending your tournament on a high note.

Obviously, for a country with high aspirations, you always want to be competing for gold, especially a team like Sweden that is loaded with so much talent. But it doesn’t always work out the way you expect, and having to gather yourself from a disappointing loss and compete after a quick turnaround is never easy.

Sweden Held the Edge in Shots

There was a noticeable difference in the demeanour of the Swedes, perhaps still reeling from the semifinal loss, perhaps looking for the motivation to press forward. As the game went on, though, they picked up the pace, outshooting the Russians by a hefty margin. It was no doubt a difficult game for Sweden, who was by far the gold medal favourites. But they had a taste of real competition against Canada, something that should have helped them in the bronze medal game.

The shots were 15-3 Sweden after one period, but they weren’t able to solve Ilya Samsonov. The Russians got the go-ahead goal early in the second, stunning the Swedes on a scramble play. But, as has been the case for the majority of the tournament, the Swedes kept their heads up and found the tying marker. (Jonathan Dahlen scored his fifth goal). They almost took the lead late in the second, but Samsonov made some spectacular saves to keep the score tied.

Kirill Kaprizov (a fifth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild), continued his goal-scoring rampage, notching his ninth of the tournament to give Russia their short-lived lead. The shot count after two periods was 29-11 in favour of  Sweden, but Samsonov kept shutting the door. He certainly had no lingering effects from the loss to the United States, because he gave his team every opportunity to win.

Regulation time solved nothing, so the game went to four-on-four overtime. It didn’t take long for the game to be decided, as the Russians scored off a turnover early in the extra frame. Denis Guryanov (12th overall pick of the Dallas Stars in 2015) stole the puck from Alex Nylander and slipped it past goalie Felix Sandstrom. Guryanov didn’t even realise the puck as in at first and had to look back to check. But indeed, he scored the bronze medal winning goal and sent the Swedes home empty-handed.

Russia Deserved to Win

Despite being heavily outshot, the Russians were never back on the heels and kept digging in until they got the result they wanted. Maybe the Swede’s hearts weren’t in it after failing to qualify for the gold medal game. Maybe they once again underestimated their opponent. In any case, it’s a remarkable result for a team that looked to be the runaway favourites to win it all. The loss certainly didn’t do anything to quell the narrative that Sweden can only win in the round robin.

This will be the third year in a row that Sweden fails to medal. But Russia put up a good fight, in particular, Samsonov, and were every bit the deserving winners. They were hard on the puck, they played the body and they didn’t let Sweden have their way in the offensive zone. There were breaks back and forth, but it wasn’t as fast paced as the semifinal yesterday with the United States. The Swedes like to control the tempo, but their methodical game plan fell short for the second day in a row.

The final shot count was 39-26 in Sweden’s favour, and the Russians really put their strongest effort in the third, outshooting the Swedes 13-10 in the final frame. It was fitting for such a close game to go to overtime, though we all would have loved another shootout thriller. In any case, the Swedes are now left to lament what exactly went wrong, and why they fell so short of the goal.

Russia, on the other hand, is leaving happy, with a medal around their necks. “I’m very pleased and for sure it makes me proud because every year our country gets medals,” said Kirill Kaprizov. This marks the seventh year in a row that Russians leave home with some hardware.

Perhaps we should pay a little more attention to the level of competition in the group stage. Russia faced the best two team. Sweden did not. Maybe a little adversity does go a long way.