3 Takeaways From Sweden’s 3-2 OT Win Over Czechia

On Day 4 of the 2023 tournament, Sweden continued their quest for first place in Group A at the World Junior Championship by taking on Czechia. All eyes were on this contest for teams in the group since the final score would cause a ripple effect on how the final standings play out based on records and goal differential numbers. 

Tre Kronor came out sluggish to start the game, unable to penetrate Czechia’s defensive system, registering only four shots in the opening period. Moreover, it marked the first time in the tournament that they failed to reach double digits in shots against an opponent in a period. 

Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship

The team’s execution suffered right out of the gate since Leo Carlsson did not play after warmups, and Fabian Lysell departed after the first period. After losing two top forwards, Sweden had to alter their game plan, which opened up opportunities for other players to step up in their absences. Furthermore, despite losing their shutout streak and getting outshot from start to finish, the team bounced back and, thanks to some crazy bounces, found a way to get the job in overtime. Here are today’s takeaways from Sweden’s 3-2 overtime win over Czechia. 

Sweden Kills Momentum In Special Team Situations

After three games, Sweden has one power-play goal on 11 opportunities, now down to just nine percent for the tournament. On their first opportunity, early in the second period, the Swedes only registered one shot on goal. They were fortunate for the chance to regain the momentum after Czechia got physical during their goal celebration, which ended Carl Lindbom’s shutout streak at 143:12. Although Sweden didn’t score with the extra man, they managed to tie the contest 16 seconds after play returned to 5-on-5. 

Fabian Lysell Boston Bruins
Fabian Lysell, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Then, later in the second period, Sweden got another chance to build upon their newly minted 2-1 lead. However, they squandered the opportunity 18 seconds after getting whistled for a holding infraction, halting their advantage again. Furthermore, with the game on the line in the final five minutes of a tied contest, Czechia took an ill-advised penalty, and Sweden failed to end the game in regulation by collecting just one shot on goal. 

Sweden is fighting for the top spot in their group and challenging for a medal; however, their special teams’ performance continues to concern everyone in the room. In comparison, Canada scored seven power-play goals against Germany on Wednesday and is gearing up for a New Year’s Eve showdown with the Swedes, which could prove problematic. 

Related: Team Sweden Players to Watch at 2023 WJC

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The Swedes’ penalty-killing record is still perfect, giving up only even-strength goals thus far. However, whether on the man advantage or shorthanded, Sweden needs to clean up this aspect of their game because these situations are destroying any momentum they have at even strength.

Ludwig Jansson Sweden’s Unsung Hero

When Sweden released their starting lineup for the Czechia game, their third-pairing defencemen were Elias Pettersson and Ludwig Jansson. Anyone watching today’s game would have expected the bulk of Sweden’s offense to come from someone other than Jansson, a 2022 fourth-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers. As a returning member of the bronze medal team in 2022, he had three assists in the opening game against Austria with no points against Germany. 

However, in one of Sweden’s most intense contests, Jansson altered his team’s trajectory at the tournament by scoring two goals, including the game-winner in overtime. Thanks to his heroics, Sweden was able to secure the much-needed extra point to stay atop Group A. 

After Jansson’s first goal, TSN announcers Gord Miller and Mike Johnson mentioned that Sweden had no business holding the lead (2-1) after Czechia dominated most of the contest. Additionally, the Swedes were without the services of Carlsson, who did not play after participating in warmups before losing Lysell after the first period. However, these situations provide opportunities for other players to step up and be productive.

Sweden sends their best players to international tournaments, and Jansson earned his spot in the lineup by being a solid player through his junior years in his home country. So far, with Södertälje SK in HockeyAllsvenskan, he currently has one goal and five assists through 25 games. Even though he may not be known as a goal-scoring threat from the blue line, his performance today positively affects everyone in the dressing room. 

Lucky Bounces Keep Sweden Undefeated

Sweden remains undefeated at the 2023 tournament, earning a blowout win over Austria followed by back-to-back one-goal decisions against Germany and Czechia. It is no surprise that the team is in this position; however, with each passing game, the competition has gotten harder, and the team has had to dig deep to find victories. 

Czechia dominated the first period, earning a 7-4 shot advantage. Lindbom had to make saves to preserve his shutout streak since his opponents were buzzing, searching for the game’s opening goal. Although Sweden grabbed a one-goal lead in the middle frame, Czechia still had the edge in shots, 14-12, heading into the final 20 minutes. 

Czechia had the best opportunities to score the game’s next goal despite trailing on the scoreboard. They almost had the equalizer with about six minutes left to play when Petr Hauser fired a puck that trickled under Lindbom’s arm and came within inches of crossing the line. Sweden’s Noah Östlund saved the day by clearing the loose puck, which led to an icing call. Eventually, back-to-back icing calls allowed Czechia to stay in the Swedish defensive zone, leading to Jiri Tichacek’s goal tying the contest up and sending it to overtime.

Sweden started the overtime like they opened the first period, chasing play and giving away golden scoring opportunities. The game almost ended 25 seconds into the extra frame when David Jiricek’s wrap-around attempt bounced up and over a diving Lindbom, who was in dire straits to keep the game alive. Although everyone on Czechia’s bench thought the puck went in, play continued, and a poorly timed line change allowed Jansson to catch a breakout and skate in almost uncontested for the game-winner.  

Related: Revisiting Sweden’s World Junior Championship History

For the first time this tournament, Sweden faced a ton of adversity and, without two of their key players in the lineup, managed to escape with two points thanks to two lucky bounces. Czechia recently upset Canada and became the Swedes’ biggest test on the schedule this far. However, if Tre Kronor thought they were tough during this game, they may be in for a rude awakening against Canada, who want to win gold on their home turf.

There are still a lot of questions surrounding this Sweden team and whether or not they have what it takes to win it all. They may be lucky today, but eventually, the bounces will not go their way. Their elite penalty-killing numbers may dip, and they may find themselves in a dire situation they have yet to find themselves in since the opening puck drop. 

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