International Ice Hockey Federation

Off to flying start

Off to flying start

First line carries Tre Kronor

Published 13.05.2014 10:02 GMT+3 | Author Peter Westermark
Off to flying start
MINSK, BELARUS - MAY 10: Sweden's Mikael Backlund #60 celebrates with Joakim Lindstrom #12 and Oscar Moller #45 after scoring Team Sweden's first goal of the game during preliminary round action at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Tre Kronor’s first line has combined for six of the team's seven goals so far at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

The line, consisting of Calgary Flames centreman Mikael Backlund and wingers Oscar Moller and Joakim Lindstrom from back-to-back SHL champions Skellefteå AIK, has indeed flown out of the gate.

"We all want to have the puck and are always moving,” said Backlund. ”That’s always tough to defend against. Also, we all go in to dig out pucks from the boards and help each other out. But there’s still another level in our game.”

In the first game, it was Backlund who played the starring role; scoring two first period goals in the 3-0 win over Denmark. In the next game versus the Czech Republic, it was Oscar Moller and Joakim Lindstrom who had two goals apiece. 

”I think we’re playing pretty good hockey so far,” said Lindstrom when asked about the chemistry with teammate Oscar Moller specifically. ”We’re competing hard and we know each other pretty well out there. So it’s easy to read off each other and create stuff. So far, so good.”

Both Moller and Lindstrom have been instrumental in Skelleftea’s success over the year. In the regular season, Moller was third in the league in goals scored with 27 and Joakim Lindstrom was second overall in league scoring with 63 points in 55 games. In the playoffs, both had 18 points in 14 games, to place them at the top of the scoring race. Lindstrom was later named both player of the year in Sweden and was awarded the Stefan Liv Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

But he doesn’t let himself get carried away by the accolades.

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”I to go out work as hard as I possibly can, contributing with what I’m good at. Whatever role I’m handed with this team, I’ll do my utmost.”

In the early going, Sweden has used the line on the power play, joined by hard-shooting Färjestad defenseman Magnus Nygren and another Skelleftea player – center Jimmie Ericsson, placed in front on the net.

Both Moller and Backlund have also seen time on the penalty kill. Having missed last year’s tournament with a hairline fracture in his foot after blocking a shot with his NHL club the Calgary Flames, Backlund now wears tailor made protective plastic guards over his skates.

”The Flames encourage all us players to wear them,” explained Backlund. ”It still hurts when you block a shot and it’s an adjustment to put them on, but if it saves me from getting hurt it’s an easy decision for me. They don’t interfere with my skating.”

He’s also one of Tre Kronor’s assistant captains.

”I have learned to handle a bigger role with the Flames for the second part of the season and [Tre Kronor Head Coach] Par Marts told me to not change anything when coming here and just continue to be who I am,” he said. “So that’s what I’ll try to do.”

Backlund enjoyed his best year in the NHL to date, scoring 18 goals and adding 21 assists in 76 games with the Calgary Flames. For the second part of the season, he took on the role as the Flames top center and was also named an assistant captain. But playing on a club that ended up placed 13th in the NHL’s Western Conference has taken a toll on Backlund who aims to build on a positive finish when he gets back to his club team in the fall.

”You don’t want to be known as a player who always misses the playoffs. But after Christmas, we won more games than we lost and that’s something everybody in Calgary knows and something that we’re going to build on.”

But for the next two weeks, it’s all about securing another gold medal for Tre Kronor. With a leading line on fire, Tre Kronor is as good a bet as anyone.


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