Both Switzerland and Sweden came into today’s game undefeated; the Swedes were able to defeat the Czech Republic in their first game at the 2014 Sochi games, despite not playing their best hockey. Switzerland under performed against Latvia, but were able to win in the final seconds of regulation. Either team could play the role of spoiler later in the tournament, so today was an important game for both.
Switzerland stormed out of the gates and had several scoring chances, however Henrik Lundqvist proved to once again be the most valuable weapon for Sweden. He made several highlight reel worthy saves to keep Switzerland off the board. The Swiss defense also came ready to play and shut down the Sweden offense, who only managed 5 shots in the first period. Comparisons were already being made to Jacques Lemaire‘s 1995 New Jersey Devils squad.
In the second, Switzerland continued to play outstanding defense; blocking shots, clogging the passing lanes, and generally making things miserable for Team Sweden’s offense. Daniel Alfredsson nearly put Sweden on the board, but the slap shot just missed and hit the post. Despite the few moments of panic for Switzerland, the game remained scoreless after two.
Sweden’s offense stormed out in the third and the puck spent the majority of the period in the Swiss zone. The Swedes had a chance to capitalize on a Yannick Weber holding penalty a few minutes into the third, but the Switzerland PK unit closed all of the shooting lanes. Despite nearly flawless play for the majority of the game, Swiss goaltender Reto Berra had difficulty controlling a puck twelve minutes into the period and Daniel Alfredsson was able to pounce on the rebound in the crease and put Sweden up 1-0.
Alfredsson’s goal would prove to be all Sweden needed to win. Henrik Lundqvist was perfect on all 24 shots he faced. With the win, Sweden clinched 1st place in Group C and a bye in the first elimination round. Switzerland gave Sweden a good game and showed some outstanding defense throughout.
While the United States, Canada, and Russia are the marquee match ups of the Olympic tournament, the other games have been showcases of excellent hockey and proof of the outstanding depth each of these teams has. Sure an 8-4 goal fest makes for exciting TV, but for a true hockey fan, there is nothing quite like a defensive battle like the one we saw in today’s Switzerland / Sweden game.