Captain Marco Sturm and Germany were able to execute their game plan almost to perfection, but a very skilled and experienced Sweden squad exposed the few mistakes Sturm's squad made and came away with a 2-0 shutout win to start their quest to defend their gold medal win from 2006.
Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) made 21 saves for the Swedes, and Mattias Ohlund (Vancouver Canucks) and Loui Eriksson (Dallas Stars) were able to solve the German neutral zone trap and beat goalie Thomas Greiss (San Jose Sharks), who made a valiant effort with 23 saves in the loss.
Sturm, who sported the captain’s C for Germany, was not only the team's emotional leader but was also their leader on offense. He seemed to factor in most of the scoring chances for Germany, including a nice break down the wing that resulted in a glove save short side by Lundqvist with 7:58 left in the game. If Sturm had lit the lamp there, the Germans may have been able to come back, but that was just another missed opportunity for a squad that seemingly has no finish in its offense and will rely heavily on the Bruins winger for goals and leadership.
As NBC announcer Mike "Doc" Emerick said just prior to Sturm's scoring chance, Germany “has more than one line that can finish, while the winning teams have at least two and in Canada or Russia’s case, three and maybe even four.”
NBC analyst and recently retired NHL veteran Jeremy Roenick also pointed out that the Germans have only three NHL forwards while Sweden is “loaded” with NHL talent, including two-time Stanley Cup winner and future Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg, who looked good but not up to speed in his first game against NHLers since 2008.
Sweden was similar to Forsberg in its overall performance. It did a solid job on defense and Lundqvist got the job done, but its offense was either sitting back a bit or was a bit out of sync. Against more skilled and opportunistic teams, the Swedes will not get away with some of the errant passes they made on Wednesday.
Of note, however, was a pass that was anything but errant — and that was Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom’s feed through traffic to Eriksson on Sweden's second goal, just a thing of beauty.
The Germans will now have to rely on Greiss and suffocating the opponent. As for the Swedes, if they get going on all cylinders and play to their potential, they will be playing for a medal — maybe even the gold again.
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