Tha Sports Junkies 101

Sweden: Canada’s Biggest Threat at World Cup

Tha Sports Junkies 101-Sports News Andy Miah/via


On September 17, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey will get underway in Toronto. It will be the first time the tournament has been held since 2004. Team Canada, the defending champion, will be the favorite to win it again this year.

However, if there’s a team that could knock them off their perch, it’s Team Sweden.

Very few countries can match Canada’s depth upfront and on defense. Sweden is one of those that can.

The Swedes boost an array of offensive talent among their forward group. Led by Nicklas Backstrom, Filip Forsberg, and Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the 2014 Olympics silver medalist boast a top-six that can produce big numbers when they’re clicking.

Their potential bottom-six aren’t pushovers, either, when it comes to playing a solid two-way game.

Carl Hagelin, Carl Soderberg, and Jakob Silfverberg all have plenty of speed, play solid defensively, and can produce offensively. Gabriel Landeskog can play a physical game that can help change the momentum of a game or create space for his linemates.

Swedish captain Henrik Zetterberg may be on the back end of his career, but can still play both sides of the puck effectively and brings tremendous leadership.

Sweden’s blueline also boasts an embarrassment of riches.

The Swedish defensive corps has a mix of size, offensive ability, and shutdown defense.

Erik Karlsson is the top defenseman on Sweden. While his defensive game is not the strongest, his offensive game is off the charts.

Karlsson loves to join the rush and, at times, looks like a fourth forward on the ice when his team is cycling the puck in the offensive zone. The two-time Norris Trophy winner posted a career-best 82 points last season in the NHL. Teams have to be careful when he is on the ice.

Youngsters Victor Hedman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Hampus Lindholm also have the ability to be offensive threats when they’re on the ice.

Of the three, Ekman-Larsson is the closest to Karlsson in offensive ability, so he is another blueliner teams need to be aware of when he is on.

Hedman and Lindholm can join the rush or sit back and be stay-at-home, shutdown defenders. The one downside, if you will, about these guys is that even though they are 6’6″ and 6’3″, respectively, neither is overly physical. That could be a problem against the likes of Canada or Team USA.

Despite that, though, Hedman and Lindholm can both log big minutes and play in all situations.

Like Zetterberg, veterans Niklas Hjalmarsson and Anton Stralman bring plenty of big-game experience and leadership to the back end. Hjalmarsson is three-time Stanley Cup winner and Stralman has been to the Stanley Cup Final twice in the last three seasons.

In goal, Sweden is not as deep as Canada, the US, or even Team Russia. However, they probably have one of the best, if not the best, netminder.

Henrik Lundqvist is the sure No. 1 for the Swedes once the tournament commences. He was the goalie when Sweden won gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics and when they lost in the gold medal game to Canada at the 2014 Olympics.

At age 34, Lundqvist is one of the older players on the Swedish roster. However, his game is still extremely strong and he has the ability to steal a game or two, which can go a long way in a short tournament like this one.

The 2014 silver medalists could be in trouble should Lundqvist go down with an injury prior to or during the tournament. If he stays healthy, though, he is a goalie that could quiet an offense like Canada’s.

Now, you may be saying, “Why would you say Sweden is Canada’s biggest threat if they lost to Canada in the gold medal game in 2014?” Well, assuming everyone stays healthy, this will not be the same Swedish team that played in the 2014 gold medal game.

In that game, Backstrom, Zetterberg, and Henrik Sedin were unable to play. Hedman, Lindholm, and Forsberg were not on the roster during that tournament, as well. All six of those players can make a difference in a game.

There’s also the revenge factor.

10 of the players on the Swedish roster for the World Cup were on the ice when they lost 3-0 to Canada in 2014. Hockey players are a proud group and you know they are going to be looking for redemption and revenge. A goal like that can make a team bond together very quickly and get results when they need them.

Again, Canada is the favorite to win the World Cup. Just don’t be surprised if Sweden ends up bursting the Canadians’ bubble.