World Cup of Hockey Preview: Sweden Relying on Healthy Lundqvist
As the hockey world prepares for the return of the World Cup of Hockey, the staff at InGoal Magazine will take a closer look at the goaltending situation for all eight teams, including likely starters and style of play leading into the pre-tournament exhibition games. We started with the Czech Republic, then Team Europe, Team North America, and Finland. Today we take a closer look at Sweden:
Team Sweden’s Rickard Gronborg may have the easiest choice of any head coach heading in to the World Cup of Hockey, with veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist a veritable slam dunk to start for the Tre Kronor.
The New York Rangers’ No. 1 is among the finest goaltenders of this generation and has been a perennial Vezina Trophy candidate during his eleven years in the NHL, winning the prestigious award in 2012.
The 34-year-old also boasts Olympic gold (Turin, 2006) and silver (Sochi, 2014) medals, two World Championship silver medals (2003 and 2004) and has been one of the NHL’s strongest post season performers for nearly a decade. The gap between him and Sweden’s next two options helps explain why there was a moment panic when he grimaced and clutched his side during a charity golf tournament over the weekend, which turned out to be the lingering effects of taking a puck off the ribs in practice, something he told the New York Post won’t keep him out of the World Cup of Hockey.
Lundqvist’s play remains characterized by his tendency to stay deep, playing from the goal line more than any other goaltender, though the veteran puck stopper has made some adjustments in recent years. This includes pushing out beyond the top of the blue paint earlier on breakaways and switching from the VH post integration to an overlapping one, after he had previously given up some squeaky goals when using the VH method.
|Henrik Lundqvist||Games Played||SV%||5 vs 5 SV%||HD SV%||Record|
|2015-16 Pro Season||65||.920||.937||.810||35-21-5|
The consequence of the change is he can be slower moving across the crease on back door plays, while his deeper style of play can still lead to holes if Lundqvist is stretched out by passes across the middle of the ice or in tight. Likewise his tendency to make glove saves by dropping his right pad to the ice while keeping the left vertical is both impressive in its beauty but also leaves him vulnerable to shots around his hip because of the way he looks to play them.
Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom is likely to serve as back up after a much improved effort for the Canucks last season.
Despite being considered to have a very high ceiling, the Gävle native has struggled to live up to expectations during his NHL career thus far, but began to show signs of improvement over the past two seasons after simplifying his game under the watchful eye of organizational goaltending coaches Dan Cloutier and Roland Melanson.
|Jacob Markstrom||Games Played||SV%||5 vs 5 SV%||HD SV%||Record|
|2015-16 Pro Season||32||.915||.918||.826||13-14-3|
Markstrom has become less aggressive and uses shorter movements than he used to, which in turn has led to less holes and a greater focus on making sure nothing goes through him.
Ultimately it has made him a more balanced goaltender, particularly now he has improved his reactive play and increased the use of his hands.
New Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltender Jhonas Enroth completes the trio, replacing the injured Robin Lehner on the roster, whose ankle injury has not fully healed.
Enroth went 7-5-1 for Los Angeles last season, posting a .922 save percentage, and has previously represented Sweden at the IIHF World Championships, winning gold in 2013, and Winter Olympics.