Mikael Backlund goes to Worlds: Sweden vs. Norway

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.

    • Ari Yanover

      I mean, I’m having fun watching them and writing them, and it’s not like anyone else associated with the Flames is playing hockey right now, not to mention posts are incredibly easy to skip over/ignore so sure, why not.

      • MontanaMan

        Agree that it’s depressing that only one Flame is playing in the tournament. With the Flames not even making the playoffs, my expectation is that there would have been three or four spread out amongst the teams.

        • freethe flames

          There easily could be but if you are Johnny and Mony and don’t have a contract would you risk it? Gio has a young family and has gone before and if te last 3 seasons are not enough to prove to team Canada that he belongs I’m not sure anything he would have done there would help his cause. I am not sure why TJ or Dougie are not there but it is what it is. But I’m happy to read that Backs is playing well as that bodes well for the Flames.

          • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

            I think 6 mil for hall is a damn bargain. Definitely top lw since he entered the league with probably top 3 in points. So ya bargain at 6

          • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

            You are kinda like a wrestler like Mick Foley who throws a few buzz words to the crowd to get them going or to get props on here, but usually no substance to anything you say.

          • freethe flames

            I suspect it will in that area, his comparable is Teresenko of St L. As WW suggests it will be a fair value contract. The comparable for Monny is likely Barkov @$6m which is a fair value contract. The contracts that worry me a bit is Colborne’s and what we might need to pay for a goalie. However if BT can move or buyout one or two of the bad contracts and Smid retires the cap issue will be resolved.

        • jakethesnail

          I would rather see healthy bodies return to start training camp than to see them play in meaningless tournament games overseas.

          I enjoy reading Ari’s articles on Sweden and Backlund. It sure beats reading stuff about how enthralled everyone is with McD for the upteenth time!

          If you don’t like to read them feel free to skip over them!

  • OKG

    I was taking a shower and just had a crazy, ridiculous idea that I hope you guys read with an open mind and don’t immediately just trash, because it just seemed to make sense:

    Let’s Give Mikael Backlund the Sergei Fedorov treatment and make him our #4 defenseman.

    Why? Backlund is an extremely good decision-maker behind his own net, he has excellent on-ice awareness away from the puck, his puck skills, outlet passing, skating allow him to exit the defensive zone with patient ease, and he’s simply not the best option to play deep in the offensive zone anyways. Rest him at the left point, where he can use his elusiveness to generate offensive chances from the blue line. He’s not good at faceoffs anyways, nor is he as good at down low play as Bennett and co.

    You would have to ween Backs into such a wild change in position, but he’s probably one of a less-than-handful forwards in the league who could actually do it (Bergeron, Zajac, Backlund, Kopitar) “You don’t convert forwards to defensemen, it just doesn’t happen”? I agree. 99% of the time you don’t. But sometimes you do and get Norris calibre defensemen (Brent Burns is a natural forward as recently as a year ago looked horrible as a defenseman, now he looks better than Drew Doughty)