Championship teams in nearly all hockey competitions have one thing in common; they have terrific goaltending behind them. The Swedish National team traveling to Sochi, Russia hope that this formula will again prove to be the case.
New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist will get the bulk of the action for team Sweden in this year’s Olympic games, and for good reason. Lundqvist is, in my opinion, the best goaltender in the world, and he has Olympic pedigree, too. The 2012 Vezina trophy winner (given to the best goalie in the NHL) will be representing his country at the Olympic level for the third time, including backstopping them to a Gold Medal in the 2006 Turin games. During those games Lundqvist posted a 5-1 record, a 2.32 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
Obviously Lundqvist has NHL pedigree as well. His 298 career wins in only 9 seasons is very impressive, especially when you consider that he has never failed to record less than 30 wins in a season in his career, with the exception of the lockout shortened campaign last year in which he totaled 24 wins in only 43 games played. There’s no doubt that if it would have been a full season he would have eclipsed the 30 win plateau again (and this year he already has 23 wins, seeming poised to reach the milestone this year as well). In his 555 games played, all for the Blueshirts, he has a goals against average of 2.27 and a .920 save percentage, fantastic career numbers by any measure.
Team Sweden is loaded with NHL talent at every level of the team and will very likely be in serious medal contention. They boast established superstars Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Backstrom up top (to name a few) and possibly the best offensive defenseman in the NHL in Erik Karlsson in their defense corps, but without question the most important player on the roster for the Swedes is Lundqvist. He is without question their number one goaltender and they will lean heavily on him if they are to compete for Olympic glory again this year. They are a very talented team but I don’t believe they are the most talented, the big advantage they have in this tournament is the edge “King Henrik” gives them between the pipes.