Sweden defeats U.S. with power play at WJC camp
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- U.S. coach Don Lucia has spent the better part of this week's National Junior Evaluation Camp advising his players about what can happen when you give a talented team like Sweden an excessive amount of power-play opportunities.
So far, it doesn't appear the lessons are sinking in.
"That's about eight power-play goals in three games," Lucia said. "Hopefully they got a little hockey IQ so you can figure that out."
Through three games against the United States, facing a pair of split-squad teams and a cut-down group, Sweden has scored eight of its 12 goals with the man-advantage, including two on seven attempts in a 4-0 victory Wednesday.
Sweden is 8-for-23 (34.8 percent) with the man-advantage in the three games.
It has created those power-play chances through an aggressive, attacking style that often has kept the American skaters behind the play.
"I think we have shown these three games that we're a puck-possession team," Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said. "Sometimes other teams might get frustrated that we have the puck a little bit, and then there's a tripping penalty or a hooking penalty. We have quite a few players, especially our forwards, that are strong on the puck. It's frustrating playing against players like that. We earned those penalties, and since we are getting power plays, we need to have an efficient power play. It's nice to see as a coach."
He saw a lot of it Wednesday. Sweden's Tobias Tornkvist scored 6:04 into the game to give Sweden a 1-0 lead, and the Swedes had a pair of power-play chances to build on it, but the U.S. was able to keep them off the board.
It didn't work as well for the Americans in the second period. With Stefan Matteau in the penalty box for roughing at 2:26, Sweden got a fortuitous bounce when Jacob de la Rose's shot from the left circle was blocked by Quentin Shore in front, but the puck bounced off the shaft of his stick and landed right on the blade of Sweden's Andre Burakovsky, and the Washington Capitals 2013 first-round pick (No. 23) scored into a mostly empty net at 4:19.
Later in the period, American defenceman Steven Santini was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking and Sweden needed 11 seconds to take advantage when Gustav Possler crashed the net to poke in a loose puck at 8:42.
Sweden worked the puck around the offensive zone effortlessly on the man-advantage. Considering the team has been together for less than a week, it was even more remarkable.
"I just think we're really good, talented players and great with the puck on the power play," de la Rose, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, told NHL.com. "We're taking care of the chances we get. … All the guys here have played on national teams over the years, under-16, under-17, so we know each other. We try to keep it simple, too, a lot of shots … it's all about fast passing and a lot of shots."
More satisfying to Gronborg is the fact his team is having so much success without star forwards Filip Forsberg and Elias Lindholm, first-round NHL draft picks who are eligible to play in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship but likely will be in the NHL when the tournament starts Dec. 26.
In addition, Sweden played without top-six forwards Sebastian Collberg and Oskar Sundqvist, who were injured in the team's game Monday. Collberg is out with an injury to his right knee, and Sundqvist has a sore neck from colliding with a metal stanchion.
"When it comes to power play, we were a little worried today because Collberg is a big part of that," Gronborg said. "Forsberg and Lindholm are not available here, so we were concerned with Collberg out and Sundqvist out; they're guys that run the power play on the first and second power plays. But other guys stepped up. [Daniel] Zaar had a good game, a couple other guys stepped up to the challenge.
"It's nice to see there's options out there, because in big championships there's going to be injuries and guys stepped into different positions."
Lucas Wallmark finished the scoring with a goal off a Burakovsky set-up at 12:36, five seconds after a penalty on the United States' Adam Erne for slashing had ended.
"I would like to see us eliminate the offensive-zone penalties," Lucia said. "You're going to get penalties for hard hits. … The four-minute [penalty], he tried to get his stick and hit him in the head. A couple of those tonight were unintentional that resulted in penalties. Still, you have to be responsible for your stick, and that's the discipline part. That's the learning curve and understanding how the game is going to be called.
"We're not going to be a high-scoring team, so we've got to be smart and make sure we manage games, and being disciplined is part of it."
When they're not, games like Wednesday happen.
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor