The stage is set for what is likely the most important game for the Swedish national team in a few years. After falling out of the top division in 2019, the Swedes can prove to the hockey world that they have corrected their course with a strong showing today against Team Canada.
Let’s be honest, a lot would have to go wrong for Canada for the Swedes to have a chance at an upset but this game is about so much more than who wins. This game is about Sweden having the opportunity to measure some of its best and brightest against the reigning world champions.
The puck drop at 2 p.m. eastern and can be seen on TSN4 and NHL Network in North America.
How they got here
It was smooth sailing for Canada in the group stage right up until their showdown with Team USA, which ended in a lopsided 5-2 final thanks to five straight goals for the Americans. Before letting that two-goal lead slip away against their rivals, the Canadians looked like the powerhouse we all expected them to be.
Canada bested both Finland and Switzerland by the score of 4-1 before dismantling Team Japan 9-0. Thus far, they are averaging just under 5.0 GF/GP — a far cry from the record-setting goal-scoring rampage they went on in Beijing. Canada has been great on special teams and at evens, but they have taken a few sloppy penalties here and there.
Sweden has been a wildly entertaining team to watch thus far. The Swedes defeated both Team Germany and Team Hungary in the shootout after a statement 5-2 win against the host nation, Denmark, on Aug. 25 to kick off their tournament. The Swedes had to settle for second-billing in Group B after being shut out by Team Czechia in a 3-0 loss that brought them to this matchup against Canada.
Player to Watch
Hanna Olsson | Sweden
Thus far, Olsson alone has been worth the price of admission to Sweden’s games in Denmark. A few years ago, before she suffered an injury that took her off the ice for the entire 2020-21 season, I thought Olsson could be the next big star for the Swedish national team. Now healthy, she’s been the Swedes’ best forward and probably their best player in Denmark.
Olsson is averaging 20:15 TOI/GP and leads Sweden in goals (4), shots (18), and shares the team lead in points. She’s also made moves in Sweden’s two shootouts that can really only be described as sorcery. Olsson’s success is the kind of story you can’t but embrace with open arms. She’s gone through a lot off the ice and to see her grin and shout in celebration at her teammates through the cage of her helmet is all the reason you need to watch her in this one.
Sarah Fillier | Canada
If you aren’t already watching Sarah Fillier every time she’s on the ice you are missing out on something really special. Her skill makes her an absolutely enchanting player to watch. Thus far, Fillier has 4 goals and 3 assists to lead Canada in scoring despite playing with different linemates than she had in Beijing. She has found a way, at the age of 22, to thrive on the biggest stage and outshine many of the biggest names in hockey.
Fillier is sensational and she has very much arrived.
The big concern for Team Sweden heading into this game has to be their defense. Canada has the best scoring depth in the tournament and Sweden has played a lot of close games thus far. Emma Soderberg has a .907 Sv% in three starts as the designated starter but the skaters in front of her could be doing more to make her life easier. They will need to be brilliant to give Soderberg and/or Ida Boman a chance to pull off the upset here. Watch for Maja Nylen Persson and how she’s deployed — she led the blue line with 21:09 TOI/GP in the group stage.
The storyline to watch for Canada is how head coach Troy Ryan distributes ice time and workloads among his forwards. Is Sarah Fillier’s team-leading 7 points with just 14:14 TOI/GP a result of her benefiting from playing the bottom four defenders of the opposition while the Poulin line takes on the top pair, or is she being underutilized? Whatever the case may be — for the record, I think it’s likely a bit of column A and column B — the ice time of young stars like Fillier and Victoria Bach will continue to be a story until they get more ice.
Canada will want to come out strong after blowing a 2-0 lead to Team USA and Sweden will have to find a way to endure that storm and find a way to establish possession. Nothing is impossible, but some things are definitely improbable. And, for this Team Sweden program, upsetting Canada is still out of their reach.