Sweden beat the Czech Republic, 4-2, in the first of the Olympic hockey games in Sochi. Here are some awards based on how we saw things break down.
GOLD STAR: Erik Karlsson kicked things off with a bang for Team Sweden with a pair of goals in the first period that set the tone for the rest of the contest. The Czech Republic seemed to stressed packing the house in front of the net, and were content to let Sweden’s point shooters fire away from the outside. Karlsson scored the first one through a Daniel Alfredsson screen, and then finished off Sweden’s scoring in the second period with another high point shot. Karlsson led the Swedes with four shots on net, finished with a plus-2 and led an incredibly talented defenseman corps that will give other teams fits throughout the tournament. Karlsson was much more engaged in this game than he was in the NHL regular season finale against the Bruins prior to the Olympic break.
BLACK EYE: Czech Republic head coach Alois Hadamczik has been making some head-scratching moves throughout the first few days of the tournament, and even before it when a perceived rift with Jiri Hudler kept that player off the roster. It continued today with Ondrej Pavelec not even dressing for the game vs. Sweden. They started Jakub Kovar instead, and he was yanked in the second period after letting in a couple of goals from the perimeter. Then the Czech coach also chose to limit Ales Hemsky to about 90 seconds of ice time in the first two periods before throwing him in for a key power play midway through the third period. Everyone else around the Olympic hockey community is wondering what’s going on with the Czech team, and that’s not good.
TURNING POINT: The Swedes got off to a great start in the first period, and truly put the game away in the second period with two more goals that gave them an insurmountable lead. The Czechs made their push after Kovar was pulled from the game, and got goals from Marek Zidlicky and Jaromir Jagr, but they were put away early in this one while giving it up to Sweden through the first 30 minutes of the game. The Czechs outshot Sweden 15-5 in the final period, but it was too little, too late by that point in the game.
HONORABLE MENTION: Nobody would have blamed Henrik Lundqvist for falling asleep early in the game, but the Rangers netminder was there when Sweden needed him in the final period. King Henrik made 15 saves in the third period to hold the Czech Republic off the board, including several good reflex saves like the stop on a Michael Rozsival bomb after it hit a pair of sticks on its way to the net. It would have been understandable if Lundqvist was a little rattled after Jaromir Jagr’s goal counted despite his own player getting shoved into him in the crease, but he went right back into the zone protecting a comfortable two-goal lead for the Swedes.
BRUINS BY THE NUMBERS: 9-for-12 – David Krejci with some mighty face-off work for the Czech team in his 19:36 of ice time, and a nice between the legs set-up to Rozsival for one of the team’s best chances in the third period. Loui Eriksson finished with a couple of shots and a minus-1, and fired a puck into Alex Salak’s chest on a point blank bid in the third period. Eriksson also worked a perfect screen of Jakub Kovar in the first period on Henrik Zetterberg’s goal in the second period.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I get really excited when I see this team. We have 14 or 15 guys that are making their debut in the tournament, and many of these guys were born in the 1990s. I think people in Sweden are very excited about where Swedish hockey is right now.” -- Mats Sundin to Sportsnet on the chances for Team Sweden in the Olympic tourney.