Sweden lost a heartbreaking semi-final matchup against Team Russia and now are set to fight for a Bronze Medal against their most bitter rivals as they face-off against Finland with the goal of getting back on the podium after being held medal-less in 2019.
Team Finland is coming off a tough loss as well, being rolled over 5-0 by the Canadians in their semi-final matchup. It will be interesting to find out which Finnish team shows up at the Bronze medal match. After taking a loss to Sweden in a close opening game of the tournament, the Fins had an offensive outbreak — scoring 15 goals in two games against weaker opponents. However, they also took a loss to Switzerland, forfeiting the 2nd seed in Group A and forced them to complete an upset win against a strong American team in the quarter-finals. As we know, they weren’t able to perform another upset performance against Team Canada, and whether they can pull off another underdog win against the Swedes is an answer that remains to be seen.
While Sweden has the stronger roster of the two nations, they cannot take Team Finland for granted. The Fins gave Sweden a run for their money in the opening matchup of the tournament, and roster the firepower to steal a game on any occasion. Kristian Tanus and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Patrik Puistola have been two of the biggest offensive weapons at the World Juniors. They also have an X-factor in Aatu Raty, the projected first overall pick at the 2021 NHL Draft, who is yet to break out in this tournament but has provided timely goals for Team Finland.
Sweden will also be faced with taking on two 2019 NHL first-round picks in Ville Heinola and Lassi Thomson. Who will provide an offensive threat from the blueline for the Fins and could potentially make life difficult for the Swedish forwards. Sweden will be in for a tough game if the duo of top defencemen can contain Samuel Fagemo and Nils Hoglander from having an offensive impact.
Justus Annunen has been far and wide one of the best goaltenders at the World Juniors. However, it was shown that he could be shaken off his game during Canada’s 5-0 semi-final win. The key will be for Sweden to get past him early and then put the pressure on for the rest of the game.
Hugo Alnefelt is coming off his biggest rollercoaster of a game for Sweden. After a shaky start, he recovered to provide the most dominant goaltender performances of the tournament to keep Sweden in the game. He’s going to be looking to continue to build off his exceptional third period of the semi-final.
The biggest news for the Swedes will be the return of Hoglander to the lineup. He has been the hottest offensive threat at the World Juniors, and his production has proved to be critical for Sweden’s success. He’s going to be hungry to make a difference early into this competition.
The key for Team Sweden winning this game will be to remain calm against the Fins. When they went on a five-minute penalty after Hoglander was ejected from the game, it was the first time their team was flustered in the tournament, and they were in a battle with themselves for the rest of the game. If they can trust the skill they have in their lineup and respond positively to pressure put on by the Fins, the Swedes should be set to get back on the World Junior podium.
The puck drops for the Bronze Medal matchup at 7:00 AM MST / 9:00 AM ET as the World Juniors is set to wrap up with a thrilling contest in the Czech Republic.
Photo Credit – Tre Kronor (Twitter)