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Sweden and Germany met on day 2 of the tournament. It was Germany’s first round, while Sweden played for the second day in a row after crushing Austria 11-0. Germany followed their game plan all afternoon while Sweden continuously searched the defense for openings. In this 3 Ups, 3 Downs column, we look at some of the highs and lows of this game.
Up No. 1: German structure
Germany’s strength ahead of this World Junior Championship (WJC) is not depth of skill but an athletic ability and focus on playing within a structure. Germany has a roster of players with strength, size and speed, enough to keep pace with any team at this event. Their system is the trap and reliance on opportunistic scoring up front, led by Julian Lutz.
They rep-a-doped Sweden for most of the game and then opened it up and traded chances at the end. It’s an effective system, especially for keeping Sweden forward to the perimeter; However, Germany will need to find a way to generate more offense consistently throughout the match.
Down no. 1: Sweden looked tired
Playing their second match in as many days, it was clear that Sweden’s skaters looked a little tired at times. Their five-on-five play was inconsistent, and despite brief bursts of offensive zone possession dominance, they couldn’t make much happen against Germany’s well-structured defense. That system caused Sweden problems throughout the game, as they couldn’t keep the pressure on long enough for their skillful puck movement to create breakdowns in Germany’s system.
Up no. 2: Goalkeeper duel
It might sound strange to call a game where Sweden outscored Germany 44 to 28 a goaltending duel, but it was. Carl Lindbom did not face a steady stream of shots or shot attempts; however, he was consistently on the spot, focused and able to make the saves, even on several high-danger opportunities that Sweden allowed, especially in the third period.
Nikita Quapp was a steady presence for Germany, stopping 43 of 44 shots, including several high-quality opportunities in close with his team’s shorthanded. Even with Germany holding shots to the perimeter for long periods, Sweden’s skillful players generated several passing plays across the ice that led to quality chances. The only puck that got past him was a deflected shot from the point.
Down 2: Germany lacked creativity
While the German system played a key role in keeping it a one-goal game against Sweden, the Germans remained too robotic. They were much more focused on where they were going to be in terms of their plan than trying to capitalize on any mistakes made by Sweden. Not until the final minutes of the game did Germany really open up offensively. This focus on positioning also caused other problems. Mistakes in coverage cost them positioning, draw penalties, give Sweden momentum, or break their momentum, forcing them to retreat further into their system.
Up No. 3: Unexpected Heroics
No one expected Sweden, with all their firepower up front, to need their defense to provide key goals, but in this match they did. With this performance, the Montreal Canadiens 2022 third round pick Adam Engstrom played the hero for Sweden. Although he scored the only goal of the night, it was his defensive play that also made the difference.
With that play, along with taking top-par minutes at five-on-five, on the penalty kill (PK), and in the final moments when Germany pushed for the equalizer, his steady play and ability to keep pucks to the perimeter came into play. a key role in adding a win to Sweden’s standings.
Down 3: Special Teams
Special teams was a double-edged sword in this matchup. It could have led to the victory for both clubs. For Sweden, going 0-4 on the power play (PP) with all that skill up front is not something they can afford going forward in this WJC. However, their PK units helped make up for it by not allowing any goals, leaving their special teams tied. But break-even special teams is not the goal for a team in search of gold.
Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championships
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For Germany, PP was crucial for them to steal a win. Their overall defensive system proved effective against Sweden, holding them to just one goal at five-on-five. But had they been able to settle into the Swedish zone and create puck movement and traffic on the net, they could have forced the game into overtime or even stolen a win.
While some would say that a game that ends 1-0 would be boring, they would be wrong in this case. There were several big hits, acrobatic saves and some lick passes that entertained the Halifax crowd. For Germany, this loss makes the game against Canada on December 27th more meaningful, especially as The Czech Republic has already upset the host team and is ahead of Germany in the Pool A standings. For Sweden, this win puts them in the driver’s seat as they now have two wins, giving them the easier path to winning the pool and getting the most favorable crossover matchup.
Blaine is a regular contributor as a THW writer. For over 7 years, he has been a part-time journalist and podcaster covering the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has made appearances on various television and radio stations as well as podcasts to discuss the Canadiens and the NHL. Blain has taken the lessons of integrity, ethics, values and honesty he learned as a 29-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist with the goal of being a trusted source of information and entertainment.
2023 WJC 3 up, 3 down: Sweden vs Germany
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