Sweden finally has a goal explosion… and then, their scoring dries right back up for the next game, forcing them to eke out a tight 3-2 win over Team Norway.
While Mikael Backlund didn’t pick up any points, he was still a frequent presence out on the ice – particularly towards the end, as the Swedes fought hard to maintain their tenuous two goal, and then suddenly, one goal, lead.
In what ended up being a particularly chippy game, Backlund played 21:03 – second most out of everybody in the Swedish lineup, behind just defenceman Erik Gustafsson, who played 21:56. Backlund only had two shots on net, but he shone in a defensive role as the game was closing out and the Norwegians were especially desperate – not to mention awfully close – to tying it up.
He, along with linemate and captain Jimmie Ericsson, led the way with 30 shifts. Backlund also led in the faceoff department: he took 20 faceoffs for Sweden and won 13 of them, including some pivotal ones in the game’s final moments.
Backlund was on the ice for just one of the five goals scored in the game: Norway’s late tally with two minutes to go to make it a one-goal finish. There wasn’t much he could have done to prevent the play; a shot did get past him (and a handful of others) through the slot, but the goal came from a rebound in tight as Andreas Martinsen was in tight on Jacob Markstrom to score.
Norway appeared to score again to have presumably tied the game; however, a too-quick whistle from the official ultimately gave Sweden the regulation victory: one they needed to jump back up into second place in Group A, behind just the Czech Republic, who handed them their one loss of the tournament so far. If Russia wins in regulation later today, however, they’ll leap over the Swedes into second. Backlund returned to the ice following the brief scare.
Sweden has just two games left in the round robin: Switzerland, and then what’s sure to be a particularly intense, not to mention meaningful, game against the Russians, who now have quite a few notable reinforcements courtesy of the Washington Capitals.
Backlund, still with four points, remains tied for fourth in Swedish scoring, behind Gustav Nyquist and Alexander Wennberg, as well as Linus Omark. He continues to lead the way with 24 total shots on net; as of writing, he’s second in the entire tournament in shots on goal, behind just Mats Zuccarello, who has 25. He’s one of just three Swedes who have played over 100 minutes so far this tournament – and the only forward to do so.
Via The Hockey Ninja, we can see that Backlund currently sits at 58.4% CF 5v5. It’s not as high as that of some other Swedes – but considering how he plays huge minutes in a more defensive role, and only Adam Larsson has more minutes and slightly better possession stats over worse zone starts, well, it’s still extremely impressive, and helps cement just why Backlund is a leader for the Swedes.