Team Sweden needed a strong start in this game and it didn’t get one. The Swedes went on a power play just over a minute into the contest but were unable to make anything happen. Their best chance came when Nicklas Backstrom set up behind the Canadian cage and fed a pass out to defenseman Johan Akerman. But Akerman fanned and the Swedes missed a chance to jump out in front.
The Staal brothers had a big hand in staking Canada to what would prove to be an insurmountable first period lead. With the Canadians already up 1-0 Jordan Staal threaded a perfect pass to Jonathan Toews, who made a power move to the net, pulled goaltender Johan Backlund out of position and tucked the puck in the net while falling to the ice. Later in the first, Erik Staal took a long lead pass and beat Backlund through the five-hole on a breakaway.
Confronted with a 3-0 hole at the start of the second period, Team Sweden needed a miracle, and in the first half of the second period, it got one: a fluke goal off an offensive zone draw that deflected past Cam Ward off of Shea Weber’s skate in the slot. But the energy and perfection required of the team that far in the hole is, most often, draining and daunting, and when the Swedes failed to connect on a short-handed odd-man break mid-way through the second, turning the puck over high in the Canadian zone, Canada capitalized, rushing back in a two-on-one with Rick Nash snapping a wrister past Backlund and ending the evening’s drama.
Backstrom was involved physically in the game against Canada. In the first period, he got into a bit of a shoving match with Canada’s Shane Doan in front of the Sweden net. Late in the third, he was also whistled for a slashing minor late in the third. We also took note of this; Team Sweden coach Bengt Gustafsson almost always deploys Backstrom’s line on the shift immediately following a goal. Those shifts are thought of as important ones in the unfolding of a game, and coaches often use their most trusted lines in those situations.
We all know that Rick Nash is among the NHL’s elite left wingers, but he has been one of the best players at this tournament night in and night out. He has logged a lot of ice time in all situations and has proven to be a solid penalty killer here. During the 2006-07 regular season, Nash averaged just 1:40 a night in shorthanded ice time. That placed him 13th among all members of the Columbus Blue Jackets in that category. We suspect the Jackets will be using Nash more often while shorthanded next season.
Team Sweden likes to create offense from behind the net, and Team Canada did well in pre-scouting this tendency and shutting it down. Virtually all of Sweden’s passes from behind the goal met with a Team Canada stick blade or body en route to their intended destinations. Canada’s interventions were not limited to passes from behind the net. Blocked shots (and passes) are not among the statistics tracked in this tournament, but we’d be willing to bet that the Canadians blocked almost as many shots as the 30 that got through to goaltender Cam Ward.