The preliminary round of the World Juniors is over. Now, fans around the world are about to endure some of the most exciting times of fandom that hockey has to offer as teams enter the single-elimination rounds of the tournament. First up for Team Sweden is a date with the host country in a Quarter-Final matchup.
Sweden comes into the second stage of the tournament after yet again going undefeated in the round-robin for the 13th year in a row. However, that doesn’t mean much for the Swedes coming into 2020. The memories of a heartbreaking defeat to Team Switzerland in the Quarter-Finals still sits fresh in their memory. Sweden’s sights are now set on avoiding that same fate against the Czechs.
With a record of 4-0-0-0, it will take an upset loss for the Swedes to lose to the host nation that went 1-0-1-2 through group play. However, the Czechs did pull off an underdog win once already in the tournament, taking down Team Russia with a score of 4-3 in the opening game of the World Juniors. But I think it’s safe to say Sweden has learned their lesson about underestimating opponents.
The secret weapon for the Swedes will be their special teams. Their powerplay efficiency of 40% and penalty kill success rate of 84.62 should be too much to handle for the Czech’s, who currently post 28% and 66.67% in both respective categories.
Czech Republic does have some scorers the Swedes will have to watch out for though. Team Captain Libor Zabransky of the Moose Jaw Warriors has tallied up four goals in the first four games of tournament play and has been a weapon for the Czech’s from the blueline. Chicago Blackhawks prospect Michal Teply has also proved to be a dangerous offensive threat throughout the tournament. With five assists, he has been the Czech’s primary set up man for offensive production.
If Sweden can continue to rely on Samuel Fagemo and Nils Hoglander to continue to carry the majority of the offensive production at an elite rate, while also getting timely goals from the depths of their lineup they should be in very good shape to take down Team Czech Republic and move on to the Semi-Finals.
Puck drops at 12:00 PM MST / 2:00 PM ET
Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@adamgirard7) and check into 12 oz Sports to get a recap of the game and updates on all the World Juniors action to come.
Photo Credit – Raw Chili (Twitter)