Swedish Report

By Peter Westermark

Finals coming up in the Swedish Elitserien

If the Sedin-twins are using the Elitserien playoffs as a crusade to prove
all their critics wrong, they should find something else to use as a
motivational tool. The Sedins, along with Mathias Weinhandl, has carried
MoDo on their backs throughout the playoffs and tonights performance away
against Brynäs in the fifth and deciding game in the Semifinals has to be
the crownjewel.

MoDo won the game 6-3, and Line 19, the nickname for the above mentioned
trio of 19-year olds, combined to score all six goals for MoDo. Henrik Sedin
scored two goals and added three assists, Daniel Sedin had two goals and two
assists, and Mathias Weinhandl had two goals and one assist. That is one
clear message sent to the critics, myself included, who claim that they
don’t show up in the big games.

After consecutive sub-par showings in the WJC’s and an inconsistent
performance in the playoffs last year there is reason to doubt if the
Sedin’s are the kind of players which a team can rely on in the big game,
and their lack of grit and emotion when things don’t go their way makes them
look very ineffective. To their defense it has to be said that they worked
hard and was playing really well in game 4 when nothing went their way and
Rangers goalie prospect Johan Holmqvist stole the show. Also, a strong
indication of how well the Sedin’s have been playing this year in the
playoffs is the stats, which as we all know, never lie. Daniel Sedin is
first and second in team scoring with 14 and 13 points respectively in 10
games, which also makes them second and third in the league behind
Djurgårdens norwegian playmaker Espen Knutsen. Of the seven games MoDo has
won so far, the Sedin’s has been credited with the gamewinning goal five
times. The other two times, veteran powerforward Magnus Wernblom has been
credited with the gamewinners. If they can continue playing like this in the
big games the critisism that they don’t show up in the big games will soon
erode into a distant memory.

Disaster for Holmqvist

Johan Holmqvist, the highly touted New York Ranger goalie prospect, has at
the tender age of 21 already established himself in Sweden as a goalie who
plays his best when it matters the most. He stole game five from MoDo in
last years finals and was the number one reason that Brynäs won the gold
last year, and he was magnificent in game four in Örnsköldsvik on April 2nd
– had it not been for Holmqvist heroics all through that game Brynäs would
never even had a game 5. Holmqvist was not to be the hero tonight, he
allowed five goals on seventeen shots on goal, and the crucial two goals
scored by Daniel Sedin and Mathias Weinhandl to give MoDo the early lead
looked weak.

The first goal was a breakaway for Daniel Sedin after a beautiful
all-through-the-neutral-zone-pass from Henrik Sedin, and Holmqvist was slow
to react to Daniel’s deke. The second goal was a scramble for a loose puck
in the slot and Holmqvist didn’t make it very hard for Weinhandl to score as
Holmqvist was already swimming on the ice when Weinhandl got hold of the
loose puck.

Holmqvist seems to be very strong mentally and he appears calm in the eye of
the storm. He is also a real talent and can make the acrobatic Hasek-like
moves that might prevent a given goal, but over the course of the season he
has been inconsistent. That is not uncommon for such young goalies however,
and all in all he has solidified his position as a very good prospect for
the Rangers. He certainly has the potential to be the best Swedish goalie
since Pelle Lindbergh in the NHL. There’s a good chance he will sign for the
Rangers and play in the AHL next year.

Djurgården will capture gold

Even though MoDo has a lot of talent the team that will win the gold is
still Djurgården, and they will do it because they have a small edge in the
goaltending area, and they are a lot more experienced. One to keep an eye on
in Djurgården is 1981-born defenseman Niklas Kronwall who could become a
steal in the draft in Calgary this summer. Kronwall plays a very smart and
mature game, he is a good skater who doesn’t shy away from the physical
stuff but he is built like a female gymnast. He is listed at 5’11, 158, and
it will take time for him to fill out. The team that drafts him will be
rewarded for him patience as he will surely reach the NHL if he bulks up,
but how big his impact will be will depend on if he can add more of an
offensive element to his game or not. Kronwall has recorded no points, 8
PIM, 3 shots on goal and a +3 rating in eight playoff games.

We’ll know soon enough if I’m right or wrong in my prediction, but
Djurgården – MoDo will be a very interesting final.