When Sweden’s head coach Rikard Grönborg got 19 reinforcements from the NHL in this year’s edition of the Three Crowns, Sweden was ranked as one of the favorites for the gold in the World Championship behind Canada and Russia. Strong names such as Nicklas Bäckström, William Nylander and Henrik Lundqvist could be found in the squad. However, at the start of the tournament, Sweden had difficulties getting their game together. Sloppy plays and unnecessary penalties put their mark on the games. Sweden beat the weaker nations in the group stage, but lost to the main opponents USA and Russia. USA won the group and Sweden grabbed the third position, behind Russia.
So far, a Three Crowns filled with NHL-players had two losses against Russia and the United States and wins against Germany, Latvia, Denmark, Slovakia and Italy. In the quarterfinals, Switzerland awaited. They managed to get second place in their group, behind Canada. Sweden got the expected victory, 3-1. Rough for Switzerland, who has been eliminated by Sweden a number of times through the years, including in the World Championships in 1998, 2013 and the Olympic Games in 2006.
In the semi-finals, the Nordic rivals Finland awaited. They had a sluggish introduction to the tournament, but managed to beat a sleepy United States in the quarterfinals. Sweden tamed the Finnish lions, through a 4-1 victory.
On the other side of the playoff tree, Canada had advanced to the finals. They beat the host nation Germany in the quarterfinals, 2-1. The semifinal against Russia was a fast-phased game, with Russia leading 2-0 before the third period. Canada showed great morale and managed to turn the game in their favor through four straight goals. Impressive. The question was how Three Crowns would be able to beat their nightmare opponent in the final? Sweden had lost against Canada in the World Championship final before in 1997, 2003 and 2004.
The final game
Three Crowns played a convincing game in the finals, with disciplined defense, stable attacks and a Henrik Lundqvist on top in the goal. The first period ended scoreless. The first goal of the game came in the second period 20 seconds before the break. Victor Hedman sent a bouncing puck on goal in the boxplay. Somehow the puck found the back of the Canadian net. 1-0 Sweden. In the beginning of the third period, Canada tied the game after a cheap penalty. Both teams then had a powerplay each without being able to convert. The score was 1-1 after 60 minutes of play.
The game could not be decided during overtime and the shootout awaited. Henrik Lundqvist came out on top, stopping four out of four penalty shots, which was enough to win the gold after Nicklas Bäckström and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored on their penalties. Another classic shootout, which made many Swedes remember the final against Canada in the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, where Sweden won the gold after a classic penalty shot by Peter Forsberg.
A classic Swedish team with both old and new profiles won the Three Crown’s 10th World Championship.
William Nylander was named the best player of the tournament. His victory jump in the hands of Henrik Lundqvist is already legendary.
Captain Joel Lundqvist, Henrik’s twin brother, took his third World Championship gold. In a Three Crown without NHL reinforcements, Grönborg expects he will lead the team in the Olympic Games of 2018.
Nicklas Bäckström finally got to play the final he missed in the 2014 Olympic Games in.
Anton Strålman finally got to win something in his career.
There are many stories to tell about this classic Swedish team!