After falling in the shootout to the ROC, Sweden will face Slovakia in the Bronze Medal game at Beijing 2022. If Sweden is victorious, they will capture their fifth-ever Bronze Medal, and first since 1988. They have already defefated Slovakia once this tournament, but will need a strong effort once again if they want to be on the podium.
Game Time: Feb. 19, 2022, @ 5:10 AM PST/ 8:10 AM EST
Three Keys to Victory for Sweden
A Healthy Krüger
In the third period of their game against the ROC, Marcus Krüger took a big hit along the boards in the third and did not return to the ice for the rest of the game. His impact was missed, as Sweden struggled in the face off dot through overtime, and could have used him in the shootout. Although he has not produced offensively this tournament, the former Chicago Blackhawk has been extremely valuable, especially when it comes to taking face offs in his own end.
If Krüger can’t go, expect a heavier workload from Jacob de la Rose. He went 7-for-10 on face offs against the ROC, and played 2:12 of overtime. Everyone will need to step up, but all eyes will be on the former Montreal Canadien as he looks to not only be defensively sound, but maybe produce some offence for the first time this tournament.
Offence From the Back End
So far this tournament, the defence has done well when it comes to generating offence from the blue line. Against the ROC, defencemen finished with 17 of the team’s 30 shots. If the Swedish defence group can keep firing pucks on the net and creating those second and third chances, the forwards should be able to capitalize like they did the last time these two teams met.
Can Johansson Continue Stellar Play
In the end, this game will come down to the play of Lars Johansson in net for Sweden. So far this tournament, he has been spectacular, allowing only three regulation goals on 79 shots. He was also very good in the shootout versus ROC, but unfortunately could not get help in the later rounds from his teammates. This will be his last Olympic game, most likely, so expect a strong game from the 34-year-old as he looks to go out with a Bronze Medal.
Three Slovakians to Watch
17-year-old Juraj Slafkovski has been nothing short of phenomenal this Olympics. He is tied for the goal-scoring lead with five, and has seen his draft stock skyrocket over the past two weeks. If he has a strong game against Sweden, he could be taking home MVP of the tournament along with a Bronze Medal.
When Sweden played Slovakia in the group stage, they were unable to hold Slafkovski off the scoresheet as he ended Magnus Hellberg’s shutout bid with less than two minutes to go. In short, Sweden needs to hold him off the scoreboard to win. Yes, they do have other strong offensively talented players, but he is by far their biggest threat. If they can emulate how Finland played him, Sweden should be able to walk away with the Bronze.
Patrik Rybár is having a tournament to remember, as he has stopped 113 of the 118 shots he has faced. He stopped all five shootout attempts versus the US in the quarterfinals, and kept Slovakia in its semifinal versus Finland by stopping 25 of 26 shots. Sweden needs to throw everything they can at him and make his life difficult otherwise it will be a long and unsuccessful night for their offence.
Marek Hrivík has been the heartbeat of the Slovakian team the entire tournament. He is an offensive catalyst has been Slovakia’s most consistent player. Expect a big game from the captain as he looks to ensure Slovakia’s cinderella story ends with a medal.
Note: Results are only shown for games featuring Sweden versus Slovakia and exclude games versus Czechoslovakia.
- 1994 Slovakia 4, Sweden 4
- 2006: Slovakia 3, Sweden 0
- 2010: Slovakia 4, Sweden 3
- 2022: Sweden 4 Slovakia 1
Overall, Sweden is the stronger team, but do not underestimate Slovakia. They have proven time and time again this tournament they can not only compete but beat the best teams in the world. Look for Sweden to capture Bronze, but a close game all the way until the end.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at https://www.area51sportsnetwork.com/ where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.