Three wins in three games ought to be enough to make anyone happy. Not the Swedish men’s hockey team.
The Tre Kronor went into the 2014 Winter Olympics as a clear gold medal favorite and remained so after wins over the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Latvia. Despite those victories, the Swedes have looked like anything but world beaters as they attempt to claim their first gold since Torino 2006.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has yet to flash the form that earned him the Vezima Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL just two years ago. Lundqvist has allowed five goals in those three games, including three in a somewhat sloppy victory over Latvia Feb. 15. Sweden is also down three of its top players as Henrik Sedin pulled out of the Olympics before the tournament and team captain Henrik Zetterberg and top-line forward Johan Franzen re-aggravated injuries in Sweden’s opening games.

The team not as skilled
Lundqvist, who helped Sweden win gold in 2006, acknowledged it will be a tough task to win three more games to win the best-on-best tournament.
"We're not as skilled as we were four years ago, missing three players that would've been on our top two lines," he said. "For this team, it will be about hard work and being disciplined. But we still do have a good team."
Sweden finished the preliminaries as the top-seeded team, knocking off Czechs 4-2, the Swiss 1-0 and Latvia 5-3. Although the Tre Kronor showed flashes of brilliance in each match, Sweden has yet to put in what anyone would call gold-medal form. Head coach Pär Marts acknowledged this when he decided to juggle his lines ahead of the Feb. 19 quarterfinal against either the Czechs or the Slovaks.
Marts created a new first line of 41-year-old Daniel Alfredsson, Patrik Berglund, who replaced Zetterberg, and youngster Alexander Steen.
Marts said the shake-up was designed to reward the players he thinks have been his best and motivate others, particularly Gabriel Landeskog, who was centering the old first line.


Still working on combinations
“It's all about getting the maximum out of all and ‘Alfie’ has been very good,” said Marts. “Then we might get a different brand of Gabby (Landeskog) also, a little more hard-working. We’re still trying to find the right combinations. I do not know if it gets better, but we think it will.”
Sweden will need more out of its second line, particularly from center Daniel Sedin, who has yet to score a goal in the tournament. Critics charge Sedin is incapable of playing well without his twin brother, Henrik, and so far, Daniel has looked lost on the ice at times. Landeskog is now on the third line.
The new line hit the ice several times against Latvia and racked up three goals and three assists. Alfredsson had two goals and two assists in the tournament while first-line defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the team in scoring with three goals and an assist.
Alfredsson, who had never played with Steen or Berglund, teammates on the St. Louis Blues, said he expects the line to gel quickly.
“The two know each other well from St. Louis and I've seen a lot of clips with them during the season,” he said. “It will be fun. They are two great players and I will take advantage of their skill and understanding of the game. I'll help out and go skate all, so we'll see if we can find some games in neutral zones and create chances that way.”
Lundqvist said no matter who Sweden faces when the playoffs begin, the Tre Kronor will have to play better.
"We're going to play better teams," he said. "It will be more intense."

(Tre Kronor is playing Slovenia in the quarterfinals, in many ways a lucky draw. Keep your fingers crossed, when Sweden wins in the quarterfinals, it usually means gold later...)