Preview: Canada vs. Sweden

May 8, 20:15 at PostFinance Arena, Berne

Quebec City Quebec Canada

In last year's semi-final clash, Canada edged Sweden 5-4. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHoF-IIHF Images.

CANADA What to Watch
The first 20 minutes of this game will be important. Canada will try and gain the advantage by taking the play to the Swedes. Playing for an early lead should be chief among Canada’s priorities today. Canada has opened scoring in five of their six games at the 2009 World Championships. Perhaps not coincidentally, they won all five games and lost their only contest when they did not score first. Who to Watch
Jason Spezza has six goals and 10 points. Last year in Halifax and Quebec City, Spezza was not nearly as commanding. He scored a goal and two assists in Canada’s silver medal-winning effort. This time, Spezza has more effectively utilized his speed in creating space for himself. His power play time on ice has led to two man advantage goals. Spezza is coming off a somewhat disappointing season with the Ottawa Senators. The Senators failed to qualify for the playoffs, only two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup finals. Strengths
By far, Canada’s power play is the best in the tournament. Canada’s power play functions at 44% efficiency; Russia is a distant second at 28%. Canada moves the puck quite effectively in working for their chances. Their goals come from near the net of from the point. To illustrate this point, forward Steve Stamkos has five goals from close range and Shea Weber has four, mostly from point shots. Goaltending
Canada’s goaltending is first in the tournament. Chris Mason and Dwayne Roloson have stopped 217 out of 229 total shots faced. Mason, who got the call to start the quarterfinal, made 21 stops against Latvia, good for his fourth straight win. SWEDEN What to Watch
How they respond to the Canadian attack will be an important indicator of Sweden’s fortunes in this game. They are aware of what is to come and how much effort it will take to stop Canada. With this in mind, they cannot take careless penalties. If there was a negative to their win over the Czech Republic it was that Sweden spent a lot of time in the penalty box. If the Czechs could have taken advantage of it they would have made an already exciting game, much more so. Canada will be ruthless in taking advantage of power play opportunities. Who to Watch
Mattias Weinhandl, it seems, just gets better. At the 2008 World Championships he led Sweden in scoring and he’s doing the same here in Switzerland. Weinhandl has provided timely goals, including his marker to open scoring against the Czech Republic. Strengths
Goal scoring, third in the tournament with 33 goals. Their total places them only behind Canada and Russia. Besides Weinhandl, Kristian Huselius, Magnus Johansson, Marcus Nilson, and Kenny Jonsson have contributed. Huselius has four while the remaining three players have three apiece. In total, the five players have scored 18 of Sweden’s 33 goals. Goaltending
Jonas Gustavsson turned in his best performance of the tournament in a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic. Gustavsson was sublime in turning away 33 shots on goal. The more pressure the Czechs applied late in the game, Gustavsson was more than up to the challenge. Games such as their quarterfinal matchup can be career-defining moments and perhaps we’ve witnessed the development of Gustavsson into a world-class competitor on the international stage at the World Championships. JOHN SANFUL




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