In the minds of most North Americans, it’s a no-brainer that the Gold Medal game in Sochi will come down to Canada and the United States. The International Ice Hockey Federation would beg to differ though, as they have Sweden as the No. 1 ranked team heading into the Winter Games after the squad won the 2013 World Championship.
In all fairness, prior to that victory the team had been ranked fourth. Don’t sleep on this incredibly talented roster filled with strong two-way stars and players that are capable of taking over games with their speed and talent though.
Since 1998—when NHL players started taking part in the Olympics—only the Canadians have come away with two Golds. Sweden will look to join that club this year however, as they won in 2006.
Injuries will be a major concern for Sweden, and have already forced the team to invite Gustav Nyquist to take Johan Franzen’s place on the roster. “Mule” would have been a dangerous scoring option for the Swedes, but Nyquist is a strong player in his own right.
Team captain Henrik Zetterberg has been on the shelf on two separate occasions this year already because of back problems, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson only recently returned from his own injury, and Henrik Sedin just missed six games for the Vancouver Canucks and was only able to get back into action on January 3.
On top of those concerns, forwards Alex Steen and Loui Eriksson have spent time on the IR this season with concussions. All of these guys are systems go right now, but are they healthy enough to compete with rosters that are firing on all cylinders and at 100%?