No Henrik Sedin. No Henrik Zetterberg. Those two injuries could’ve had a negative impact on Sweden’s men’s Olympic hockey team.
Instead, a difficult situation has turned into an opportunity for Nicklas Backstrom to become a main man up the middle, and he’s taken full advantage to this point in the tournament. Through five games, the now 26-year-old Backstrom, centering the top line, is tied with Daniel Sedin and Erik Karlsson for the team lead in assists with four. He’s been forced to emerge as one of the key contributors on a team now competing in the gold medal game against the defending Olympic champions from Canada.
His production and valuable minutes – he’s averaged 18:22 per game – have helped Team Sweden secure at least a silver medal. Now, there’s one game left. One game to put it all on the line for one’s country, to win gold. No pressure, right?
“I don’t feel like I have pressure from outside,” Backstrom told NHL.com. “I always put pressure on myself and have high expectations of myself in a tournament like this or when you go into a new NHL season. That’s a similar situation.
“I think that is enough, to put the pressure and expectations I have for myself. Obviously we have a lot of ice time and the coaching staff believes in us, so it is something we have to take care of.”