The Swiss should have their helds head high after Beijing. They had to prove to themselves and to the rest of the field that they belonged among the elite in Group A and, by tournament’s end, they did just that. Don’t let the two games where they allowed at least 10 goals to Team Canada fool you, the Swiss are the real deal.
How They Finished
Team Switzerland went 1-3-0 in the group stage, which is more or less what we expected to see. They turned things around after being crushed in their first game of the tournament by Canada in a 12-1 rout. Although they were handed a big 8-0 loss by Team USA, the Swiss also bested Finland in the group stage with a 3-2 win. That win, in and of itself, was a major achievement for Switzerland.
Building on the momentum of that win, the Swiss bested ROC in the quarterfinals, by a score of 4-2. It was a satisfying revenge after earlier being defeated by ROC by a score of 5-2 in the preliminary round. Team Switzerland earned every bit of their spot in the semifinal with that win over the Russians. That victory brought them to a second meeting against Team Canada, the eventual gold medal winners.
In the semifinal, the Swiss were again overwhelmed by Canada’s scoring prowess but managed to score three times against Canada in the 10-3 loss. Now, please make sure you read this next sentence twice so that it really sinks in. No other team in the tournament, including Team USA, scored more than two goals against Team Canada in Beijing. Seriously, reflect on that one for a moment.
Ultimately, the Swiss left China with a fourth-place finish after losing the bronze medal game to a resurgent Team Finland. Anni Keisala shut down Switzerland’s entertaining offense and Finland scored four of their own to claim the bronze. Many hoped the bronze medal game would have more fireworks, but the Swiss looked all gassed out and the Finns were just too much for them to handle in their second meeting.
What Went Right
- Superstars Delivered | To put it bluntly, Alina Müller and Lara Stalder carried the Swiss through this tournament. They were both flat-out brilliant in Beijing. Müller led the team with 10 points in 7 GP and Stalder was just behind her with 9 points, but led the team with 5 goals. You could make a strong case that they were the two best European forwards in the entire tournament, which is really saying something.
- Power Play | Heading into the tournament, it was no secret that Team Switzerland was going to need a strong power play to have a real chance at a medal. It was a bit of a roller coaster, but, overall, the power play was a strength. Six of Switzerland’s 13 goals were buried on the PP and they finished with a 19.35% success rate on the PP, which was good for fifth in the tournament.
- Christen Creating Buzz | The spotlight was fixed on Swiss’ two star forwards but they weren’t the only players who shined in Beijing. Defender Lara Christen had a goal and two assists with an average ice time of 23:25 TOI/GP. She finished the tournament third on Team Switzerland in scoring and never took a trip to the penalty box. That would be impressive for anyone and it was doubly impressive for a 19-year-old. Don’t overlook this breakout performance by Christen.
What Went Wrong
- Depth Scoring | Müller and Stalder scored nine of the 13 Swiss goals in the tournament. That’s an impressive stat for that duo, but a somewhat damning one for the rest of the club. Phoebe Staenz actually led Team Switzerland in iSOG (26) but had just one point — a goal — while averaging over 21 minutes of hockey each game. Dominique Ruegg was the only player besides Müller and Stalder who had more than one goal on the team. There just wasn’t enough offense coming from outside of the top line or the blue line.
- Penalty Kill | The penalty kill was a big problem for Switzerland. They gave up 6 power-play goals against, and finished with the second-worst penalty kill in the tournament — a grim 72.73%. Sure, they got beat up in the group stage by many of the best power plays on the planet, but it was disappointing to see the Swiss give up so much on the PK. It more or less erased the positive effects of a dangerous power play.
- Zimmermann’s Deployment | I’m not known for singling players out, but I was surprised that Laura Zimmermann went scoreless in Beijing. She put just 8 shots on goal and averaged only 9:18 TOI/GP. I wasn’t really disappointed by her performance. I was more disappointed in how she was utilized. The Swiss need to make sure they develop their next wave of stars like Christen and Zimmermann. It would have been nice to see one of Switzerland’s most promising youngsters see more ice time with skilled veterans. I expect we’ll see her playing a larger role at the next Worlds.
Top 3 Players
- MVP | The MVP nod has to go to Müller. She was brilliant. She had points on all but three of Switzerland’s goals. I’d love to know how many penalties she drew and some other underlying numbers because she was electric when she had the puck on her stick, even against elite defenses like Canada and the U.S.
- Stalder Shines | There are few players who were more dangerous in Beijing than Stalder. She’s a dynamo at creating scoring chances and displayed that ability to make magic happen when she had the puck on her stick and a bit of space to work with. Stalder is part-playmaker, part-sniper, but all superstar. She scored four of Switzerland’s six power-play goals and added another at even-strength. The Swiss wouldn’t be the threat they are without her.
- Brändli | Andrea Brändli’s stats may not jump off the page but she gave her team a chance to win in almost all of her starts. Being a Group A goaltender is not easy, especially for those who are not wearing Team Canada or Team USA jerseys. Brändli finished the tournament with an .893 Sv%, which is pretty solid considering what she had to endure with two apperances against Canada and one against USA. No goalie allowed more goals (32) but no goalie made more saves (242). This was a big test for the Buckeye and she passed it.
Data courtesy of the IIHF and EliteProspects.com.