Team Sweden has turned its fortunes around and earned a berth in the gold-medal game despite not having captain Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin in the lineup for the majority of the tournament. They’ve leaned on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and he has not disappointed.
Lundqvist allowed just one goal on 26 shots faced against Finland Friday, helping Sweden to a 2-1 win and their second gold-medal game in the last three Winter Olympics. Lundqvist made key saves on the penalty kill in each period, including three penalties in the first period.
He posted a shutout against Slovenia in the quarterfinal, and there’s no doubt Lundqvist has been the team’s MVP. He’s provided the leadership they needed to overcome the losses of such vital players.
Team Sweden has been one of the top teams in international hockey for a while, but it was starting to look like the 2014 Sochi Olympics weren’t going to be the place to prove it.
Only four players remain from the 2006 Swedish team that won gold. This current batch of Swedes are a young group with exceptions at a few key positions. Veteran Nicklas Kronwall is the leader of the defense and Daniel Alfredsson has been around the block as well, but Sweden wouldn’t have a shot at the gold medal this season if it weren’t for Lundqvist in net.
Lundqvist has posted a 1.25 goals against average during the Olympics and hasn’t made glaring errors. In an era where teams often use more than one goaltender, Sweden sticks with him because he’s the obvious choice.
Sweden will face the winner of the USA and Canada in the other semifinal, and will have their hands full either way. They haven’t dealt with an offense as potent as either team during the Olympics. Lundqvist will be the key again, and Sweden’s chances in the final depend on how well he plays.
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