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Klefbom reflects on Worlds experience

by Julie Robenhymer / Edmonton Oilers

OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - For Oscar Klefbom and his Swedish teammates, the quarterfinal game against Russia at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Czech Republic was a hard way to be reminded of the importance of playing a full 60 minutes.

Prior to the game the focus was on not relying on their skill to get them out of trouble. We hear it from coaches all the time - you can't always out-score your mistakes.

"The Russians are so skilled, but we have to play our own game too," said Swedish Coach Par Marts prior to the quarterfinal game. "The challenge will be to play defence, but also to try to score goals, to find the right balance between the two and to play to win and not play to lose. If you play that way, that's when you make mistakes and get in trouble.

"We have a lot of talent and can score a lot of goals if we want to, but we have to be focused and can't rely on our skill alone," he continued. "We haven't played three good periods yet, so we still have that challenge, but I know that we can and that's the most important thing."

And the players knew what they were up against.

"We can not have a sloppy start and give them a couple goals. They're too good to allow them to do that and then have to fight our way back," Klefbom said, almost prophetically because that's exactly how the game played out.

Sweden took three penalties in the first 10:30 of the game including a 5-on-3 opportunity. Against a team operating at 40% efficiency with the man advantage, that is not a recipe for success as they scored on that two-man advantage to take the 1-0 lead. Ten minutes later, the Swedes found themselves in a 3-0 hole. Time to rely on all that talent to outscore their mistakes.

Photo by Getty Images
They were able to take advantage of their own power play and it was a 3-1 game after 40. Early in the third, Anton Lander cut Russia's lead down to one with a beautiful shot from the circle. Sweden saw the light at the end of the tunnel and continued to pour on the pressure and aggressively attack the offensive zone like their tournament lives depended on it…because it did.

With the clock winding down, Loui Eriksson tipped in Lander's shot and scored the game tying goal to erase the 3-0 deficit with 5:15 left in regulation.

Then, 23 seconds later, disaster for the Swedes as Yevgeni Malkin's shot hits Oliver Ekman-Larsson's skate and redirects past Anders Nilsson to regain the lead. They'd add on an empty netter for a 5-3 final ending Sweden's hopes for a medal.

"We had them….we had them," Klefbom said after the loss. "We fought so hard to come back, then the puck goes off a skate and we're out of the tournament. This one is going to sting for awhile."

While the result wasn't what he wanted, Klefbom relished the experience to represent his country again. He's worn the Tre Kronor three times before at IIHF events earning silver at the 2011 U18 World Championship and gold at the 2012 World Junior Championship, but this is his first men's championship.

"I obviously want the opportunity to still be playing in North America at this time of year and competing for the Stanley Cup, but it's also a great opportunity to come here and play for the country," said the 21-year-old. "It's very special to have the opportunity to play with guys you normally play against the whole season.

"When I came here, I tried to play the best I could and I'm very happy with the situation I had playing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson," he continued. "I got a lot of ice time and it helps me learn more, playing in those big situations and important moments in the game. I think I play pretty solid and the coaches believed in me and gave me a lot of minutes."

Marts agrees, " He's a strong defender with a tremendous shot. He's played really well here and he's going to be a future star for Sweden."

As Klefbom officially closes the book on the 2014-15 season, his focus remains on the lessons he learned this season both here in Czech Republic and with Edmonton as he aims to play a full season in the NHL next year.

"I'm young and I have a lot of things I can work on to get better this summer. I learned a lot this year and have more confidence in my game and I know that I can contribute more. I just have to put in the hard work and I'm willing to do that. I want to do that. I want to be successful and I want to win."
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