Blackhawks’ Olympic Effort: Day 1
Team Sweden opened the men’s tournament at the Sochi Olympic by playing Czech Republic, while Latvia faced Switzerland. The Bolshoi Ice Dome was loud with Czech fans coming en masse to support their national team.
But in the end, it was Sweden that came out on top, led by defenseman Erik Karlsson, who scored 2 goals to help Sweden to a 4-2 win. Before even the halfway mark, Sweden was up 4-0, with 2 goals in the first period and 2 goals in the second.
Karlsson opened fire, with a shot from the right point during a 6-on-5 delayed penalty a few seconds after the halfway point of the 1st. Barely 3 minutes later, Patrik Berglund followed with a quick shot that went right past Czech goaltender Jakub Kovar. Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist got an assist on that goal, his first Olympic assist.
It took less than a minute in the 2nd period for Sweden to score again, from captain Henrik Zetterberg with a screen from Alexander Steen in front of the net. That was it for Kovar, replaced by former Rockford Icehogs goaltender Alexander Salak.
Four minutes later, Karlsson shot a rocket that went right past Salak’s shoulder, making it a 4-0 game. That was when the Czechs started to fight back. 9 minutes in the period, Marek Zidlicky slapped the puck under Lundqvist’s crossbar to put the Czechs on the scoreboard.
Their second Czech goal came from hockey legend Jaromir Jagr, playing in his 5th Olympics, who scored at the halfway mark of the 2nd period. The goal was reviewed when Tomas Plekanec appeared to push defenseman Niklas Kronwall into the Swedish netminder on the play, and declared good.
And that was were the game would stay at, despite a strong effort on the Czech Republic’s team to try and get a 3rd one in; Lundqvist wouldn’t let it, stopping strong attempts from Tomas Kaberle and Michael Frolik.
Neither of the Blackhawks players ended up on the scoreboard, but they were all present - Marcus Kruger got a role on the 4th line, which he already is comfortable in with the Blackhawks. Both Niklas Hjalrmasson and Johnny Oduya were all over the ice, active and fast, showing exactly why they were selected for their national team.
Sweden, during the first half of this game, was incredibly dangerous and dominant, but once Czech Republic woke up and started fighting back, it was a balanced, intense hockey game, and shows just how excited and determined these players are at playing in the Olympics.
Tomorrow, the main contenders are jumping in the tournament, with 4 different games: USA/Slovakia, Finland/Austria, Russia/Slovenia, and Canada/Norway.