Sweden, the defending gold medalists in hockey, have a lot going for them entering the 2010 Olympics. They have an elite goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist who backstopped them with five wins in Torino four years ago and has kept the New York Rangers from playoff extinction this season. Playing behind a very average NHL squad, his statistics shouldn't be judged too harshly as Lundqvist can bring the Swedes to the promised land a second time.
Offensively, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Johan Franzen and Peter Forsberg form a group that can carry its weight against even the powerhouses such as Russia and Canada. Youngsters Patric Hornqvist and Loui Eriksson have scoring touches of their own adding to the depth of the roster which led to Mikael Samuelsson's absence. Samuelsson, who is five points shy of tying his best statistical output, told them his exact thoughts of the decision.
Nicklas Lidstrom along with fellow Red Wing Niklas Kronwall and Mattias Ohlund are the three returning defensemen from the 2006 winning team. The remainder of the blue line is made up of Henrik Tallinder, Tobias Enstrom, Douglas Murray, Johnny Oduya and Magnus Johansson who are each making their debut in this competition.
Krownwall's knee issues have been a concern because he missed two months earlier in the year and re-aggravated it at the beginning of February. The 29-year-old participated in Detroit's final contest prior to the break indicating that he is ready to dress for his country.
One of the questions fans love to ask regarding Olympic hockey is what sorts of line combinations will be created and prognosticating their own take on the subject. With a glance at Sweden's blue line, there's a tandem that I believe has the ability to make a statement if they were paired up together; Kronwall and Murray.
These two are among the top hitters in the sport today in terms of how often they do it and how forcefully they deliver it. In Detroit, Kronwall made a name for himself last year with a career-best 51 points while throwing the body tirelessly. It's been more of the same this season to the point where he's gotten his own catch phrase and commercial.
While Kronwall's fame has grown in the Motor City, Murray has quietly earned his placement on the Swedish back-line as he threw the most checks in San Jose in the past two campaigns and currently sits in the top 15 among all players through 60 games of 2010. Playing for San Jose in the Pacific Division, where late starts are customary, does him no justice as Murray's effectiveness goes largely unnoticed.
Listed as 6' 0" feet in height and around 190 pounds, Kronwall plays bigger than his size targeting forwards in the open ice with precision. Murray is 6' 3", 240 pounds and simply excels at shutting down the opposition with devastating hits. I've literally seen people bounce off this former eighth-round selection when attempting to take him off his feet.
His size advantage allows him to dish out more pain than his teammate, but Kronwall's offensive acumen see's him as the better overall performer. Matching someone who has taken part in this event with a newcomer is never a bad idea as Kronwall could assist in how Murray conducts himself. Ultimately, these two possess the type of physicality that Europeans haven't always been known for; the kind that can intimidate opponents during each shift.
If head coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson pairs Kronwall and Murray together, he'll have created possibly the tournament's largest defensive terror for any forward who hopes to get past them.