Sweden took on Germany in their second game of the 2023 World Junior Championship in Halifax and escaped with a 1-0 win. Historically, this rivalry has been one-sided since Sweden has never lost to Germany in the tournament, and that streak continued on Tuesday afternoon.
As expected, Sweden remains the most dominant team in the round-robin stage. After two games, they are the first team to score 12 goals and have yet to give up one, with Carl Lindbom posting back-to-back shutouts. His strong play singlehandedly saved the day as his team failed to capitalize on opportunities to bury a German squad that hung around until the final seconds.
Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship
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With this victory over Germany, Tre Kronor improved their record to 2-0. Here are a few things to take away from their performance this afternoon.
Sweden Winning Without Fabian Lysell Contributing
Sweden is known for producing elite talent, and this 2023 World Junior roster is no exception. One of the team’s veteran players is Fabian Lysell, who is playing with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League. Initially drafted 21st overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2021 Entry Draft, he played in the 2022 tournament, collecting four points in seven games.
As one of the top forwards on a stacked Sweden power-play unit, Lysell has yet to register a single point in this year’s tournament. However, his best chance at scoring came in the Germany game during a penalty shot, which was unsuccessful. In any case, it has been a surprising tournament since he’s got 19 points in 20 games with the Bruins and is on pace for 60 points during his first season in professional hockey.
Sweden dominated Austria but barely escaped a tough German team who fought to the bitter end. Their defense may be winning them games by limiting scoring opportunities, which allows the offense to continue to work on their game. However, no one can imagine what this team can accomplish once Lysell and the rest of the offense play to their true potential. Nevertheless, they could advance far into the medal round, possibly winning their first gold medal in ten years.
Carl Lindbom Is Frontrunner for Team MVP
The Vegas Golden Knights have a bright future in the goal crease. Rookie Logan Thompson has the team at the top of the Pacific Division, but one day, Lindbom will leave his native country and challenge for a spot on an NHL roster. Through two games at the 2023 tournament, he has yet to surrender a goal and has stopped all 41 shots he’s faced.
Lindbom wasn’t challenged in the Austria game and didn’t have to stand on his head to preserve his shutout. However, he was a busy guy against Germany, stonewalling several golden scoring opportunities on the penalty kill and in the dying minutes of the contest. There are few German NHL prospects in the lineup, yet Lindbom had to work to keep his shutout streak intact. Whether diving across with his pad or covering up loose pucks in scrambles, he was sharp and the main reason his team remains undefeated.
The offense was quiet in game two, tallying only one goal and missing a penalty shot opportunity, forcing Lindbom and the defense to step up and shut down an upstart German team. Since there are no offensive stars stealing games with nifty plays, the clear favorite for the team’s most valuable player, after his performance today, has to be Lindbom. Without his heroics today, the Group A standings could look much different after day two.
Special Teams Are One of Sweden’s Biggest Concerns
Sweden is historically one of the greatest round-robin teams of all time, adding another two wins to their legendary record at the 2023 tournament. Analysts and fans are not surprised, but the method by which this team is succeeding is surprising.
Tre Kronor only scored two power-play goals on eight opportunities in pre-tournament play. Those numbers are alright, considering the special teams clicked at 25 percent; however, in games that matter, those numbers are down to one goal in eight opportunities (12 percent). TSN analyst Mike Johnson mentioned early in the German game that Sweden employs four NHL-drafted players on the first unit, along with prospect Leo Carlsson, who is waiting for his chance at the 2023 draft.
Instead of burying the puck and building a substantial lead, the Swedes passed too much and tried to make fancy plays with the man advantage. Since they didn’t have the killer instinct today, German goalie Nikita Quapp was the game’s best player, turning away 43 shots and keeping his team in it until the end.
Germany hung around the contest, despite generating only a few scoring opportunities in 5-on-5 play. Most of their chances came while Sweden was on the penalty kill, which may cause them heartbreak later in the tournament against higher-ranked opponents if they fail to avoid the penalty box. Still, the Swedes dominated the special teams battle against Austria and scored a shorthanded goal. But against a more structured team like Germany, the penalty killers allowed shots from every angle, forcing Lindbom to make crucial saves.
Related: Team Sweden Players to Watch at 2023 WJC
Despite all their early success, special teams need to improve for Sweden. Whether the team needs to capitalize on the man advantage or limit glorious opportunities when shorthanded, their success may come down to their execution on special teams.
After games on back-to-back days to open the tournament, Sweden has Wednesday off and will take on Czechia on Thursday afternoon. Tre Kronor will wrap up their round-robin play against Canada on New Year’s Eve.