Prior to Sweden‘s game with Switzerland, Swedish captain Henrik Zetterberg was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back which will end his 2014 Olympic run. Sweden was one of the favorites to win gold coming into the tournament, but the loss of their captain, one of the most talented players in the world, will hurt their chances and they will need other players to step up.
Lucky for them, Henrik Lundqvist is their goalie and is one of, if not, the best goalies in the world. Lunqvist proved that during their game this morning against Switzerland, saving all 29 shots he faced, propelling his team to a 1-0 victory. Veteran Daniel Alfredsson provided the lone goal of the game midway through the third period.
With the win, Sweden is now in first place in Group C with a 2-0-0 record and six points. Switzerland and Czech Republic are tied with three points apiece and will play each other Saturday, likely for second and third place in the group. Latvia is the last team Sweden will face in group play and they should handle them easily.
Although it appears Sweden will advance to the quarterfinal round without Zetterberg in the lineup, their chances to win will take a hit. Their men’s hockey team has won a medal in five of the last nine Olympics, including two gold medals.
Coming into the Olympics, they lost NHL stars Henrik Sedin and Johan Frazen to injury but filled the roster gaps as best they could ahead of time. Nicklas Backstrom is a legitimate top line fill-in for the Swedes, but lack of center depth could become a problem down the stretch when they face teams like Canada or USA.
Lundqvist’s play will determine if Sweden will find themselves on the podium yet again. Without Zetterberg it is hard to say they will win gold, but with a stud in goal like Lundqvist, anything is possible.