Saturday, February 26, 2011
Looking to atone for their shocking defeat in 2002 at the hands of Belarus, Sweden came into the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy ranked second in the IIHF world rankings.
They were grouped with Slovakia (ranked 3rd), the United States (6th), Russia (7th) and qualifiers Kazakhstan and Latvia.
The Swedes opened their tournament on February 15th with a strong 7-2 win over Kazakhstan to get themselves off to an important fast start. They ran into a buzzsaw the very next day and were soundly thrashed by the Russians by a score of 5-0.
Fortunately for Sweden, overmatched Latvia was up next two days later and Sweden regained some confidence and momentum with an easy 6-1 victory. 24 hours later they had another one in the win column after a narrow 2-1 defeat of the United States. This set up a final Group B game against Slovakia with first place in the group on the line.
Unfortunately things went as poorly for Sweden as possible, as they went down to defeat 3-0 at the hands of the Slovaks, their second shutout in five games. That, combined with Russia's 5-4 win over the Americans, dropped Sweden down to third place in the final Group B standings and a Quarterfinal matchup with the second place team in Group A, who already had scored surprising defeats of both Canada and the Czech Republic in the preliminary round of group play.
However, Switzerland has also shown themselves to be inconsistent, having allowed winless Germany and Italy to tie them. They also showed they were entirely beatable in their 5-0 loss to Finland.
Sweden answered the challenge in fine style and easily ousted the Swiss from the tournament with a 6-2 win, again giving their confidence a boost when they needed it most. Next up for Sweden was the Czech Republic, who impressed no one in the preliminary round by losing three times, beating only Germany and Italy to do just enough to advance. Given a new life in the Quarterfinals, The Czechs upset Group B winners and rivals Slovakia 3-1 after an empty net goal with three seconds remaining.
Sweden earned their shot at a gold medal with a solid 7-3 trouncing of the Czechs.
Meanwhile in the other half of the bracket, the Russians had eliminated the previous gold medal winning Canadians, while Group A winners Finland ousted the United States 4-3 and then dumped Russia easily by a score of 4-0 to set up the gold medal showdown with their classic rivals Sweden.
The gold medal final opening faceoff
The red hot Antero Niittymaki got the start in goal for unbeaten Finland, while Henrik Lundqvist was named the starter for Sweden. Each team survived a penalty in the first period before Jorgen Jonsson was sent off at 14:15 for hooking. 30 seconds later Kimmo Timonen put Finland ahead with an assist from Teemu Selanne when his shot from the point trickled through Lundqvist's legs for a rather soft goal. Sweden was again penalized a little over a minute later, but held fast and the first period concluded with Finland ahead 1-0 on the scoreboard but trailing in shots 9-7.
Saku Koivu watches the puck squirt through Henrik Lundqvist
The intensity picked up in the second period when Toni Lydman of Finland was penalized at 3:52 which allowed Sweden to equalize at 4:42 when Henrik Zetterberg banked one in off of Niittymaki's leg as he came out from behind the net from Mikael Samuelsson and Christian Backman.
Zetterberg celebrates Sweden's first goal
A trio of Finnish penalties followed and during the third one called at 13:00 on Saku Koivu, Sweden was able to take the lead at 2-1 just 24 seconds later when defenseman Niklas Kronwall pinched in from the point and received a pass from Zetterberg. He temporarily lost the puck when a Finnish defender arrived at the same time, but he was able to recover the puck and fire a quick, hard wrist shot past Niittymaki for the goal.
Finland countered at the 15:00 mark when Jussi Jokinen swooped in behind the net and sent a quick pass to Ville Peltonen who was streaking toward the net. Peltonen was able to direct a backhander past Lundqvist to even the score at 2-2. Olli Jokinen received the second assist for Finland.
Ville Peltonen evens the game at 2-2
There was no scoring for the remainder of the second period despite a pair of power plays for Finland, the second of which was cut short by an interference penalty on Jussi Jokinen just 20 seconds into the Finnish power play. As the second period ended, the shots on goal again favored Sweden, this time by a narrow 11-10 margin.
Before the fans could settle into their seats, captain Mats Sundin won the opening faceoff of the third period and Peter Forsberg took the puck and skated over the Finnish blueline to the left side of the ice. Once across the ice he sent a pass back to Sundin trailing him over the line. Sundin then moved along the boards down to the left side of the faceoff circle and sent a backwards pass out to the blueline where a wide open Niklas Lidstrom was arriving with a full head of steam. He put everything he had into his shot which found the back of the net just over Niittymaki's shoulder only ten seconds into the period to regain the lead for Sweden at 3-2.
Lidstrom receives congratulations after his goal early in the third period
Sweden killed off penalties at the 3:33 and 11:50 marks as Lundqvist shut the door in goal, as the Finns outshot Sweden 10-8 for the period, to carry Sweden to the gold medal.
Sweden celebrates their gold medals
For the tournament, Daniel Alfredsson led Sweden in scoring with 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in 8 games, followed by Sundin's 3 goals and 5 assists, good for 8 points. Lundqvist played in 6 of Sweden's 8 games and finished with a 5-1 record and a 2.33 goals against average with a .907 save percentage.
Today's featured jersey is a 2006 Sweden National Team Mat Sundin jersey. 2006 was the year that Nike introduced the brand new Nike Swift jerseys, first seen at the World Junior Tournament on the USA and Canada. Each of the 12 participating countries in the 2006 Olympics wore the new Swift designs, except for Switzerland and the eventual gold medal winning Sweden, who were somehow able to overcome the truck-like weight and aerodynamics of the old style jerseys when compared to the new technologically advanced jerseys the rest of the field was outfitted with.
A unique addition to the Swedish jerseys from their previous sweaters was an attempt to create a "lace up" collar style, which was simply a few slits cut into the existing yoke collar and threading a white elastic threat through it, which did not actually have to be tied, as it was a single continuous piece.
Another unique feature of the jerseys Sweden wore during the 2006 Olympics was the Swedish Olympic logo added to the right shoulders, which was not added to the retail version of this jersey we purchased. After some much appreciated assistance from a friend who created an embroidery file and a helpful embroidery shop, we were able to add this vital detail to our jersey and were quite pleased with the results shown below.
The Swedish Olympic logo added to their jerseys at the 2006 games
Given the opportunity, Sweden always opts for their traditional bright yellow jerseys with blue crowns, stripes, names and numbers, but for this contest they captured gold in their road blue sweaters.
Today's video selection are highlights, including all the goals, from the 2006 Olympic gold medal final between Finland and eventual champions Sweden.