He was the best player on the ice for Sweden. He has been one of the best all tournament, and it wasn’t enough.
Sweden’s 2020 semifinal against Russia began in the best way:
Rasmus Sandin opens the scoring 16 second in: pic.twitter.com/rIsyOiJ4D6— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) January 4, 2020
And then they cut their own nose off to spite their face with this inexplicable hit from the team’s top scorer and star of the power play:
Hoglander was given a 5 and 10 for a head hit, which carries and automatic ejection from the game. Given this was very early in the period, he likely won’t face further discipline, and will have to play in the bronze medal game tomorrow against the loser of Canada - Finland.
In an ongoing problem at this year’s WJC, the victim here, Russian star Grigori Denisenko, was given some ice for his neck on the bench, and then popped right back on the ice for Russia’s 5-minute power play.
This drew a response from Bob McKenzie:
.@TSNBobMcKenzie believes there should have been a lot more done in the way of concussion protocol after Grigori Denisenko returned immediately from the Nils Höglander ejection hit.— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 4, 2020
Do you agree? pic.twitter.com/G0osfZxlad
I feel like this has become about punishment and not protection. There is lip service paid to the idea of player protection, but Hoglander sitting and stewing in the dressing room for the rest of the game doesn’t fix Denisenko’s brain, if an injury occurred. And no one knew if it had. They decided to pretend it hadn’t.
We’re starting to see this in the NHL as well, where spotters are obstructed, argued with, or just way late on the call, and players are not taken off the ice for immediate assessment.
The Swedish goalie, Tampa prospect Hugo Alnefelt made a horrible error where he misplayed the puck and gave the Russians a goal.
Sweden tied it up with some assistance from Sandin:
And then he did this, in case you’d forgotten this was a tournament of teenagers:
The next head hit was this one:
And no, the Swedish player was not taken off and assessed as far as I know.
Sandin tied the game up, though:
Sandin scores his second of the game. His third point.— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) January 4, 2020
Sweden ties it at 3. pic.twitter.com/1QMvb8I1w5
Alnefelt with the save of the tournament:
Sandin got his fourth point on Sweden’s fourth goal, and Russia pulled their goalie:
Nils Lundkvist (NYR) gives Sweden a 4-3 lead.— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) January 4, 2020
Sandin picks up his fourth point. pic.twitter.com/lHfgWUTp7W
When people talk about momentum in hockey games, I always roll my eyes. It’s a story you tell after the fact, and you find a cause based on who took control of the game. If Sweden had gone on to win this game, that Alnefelt save would be the momentum causer. But for whatever reason, the Russians poured it on for the remainder of the third period, tied the game up and kept up relentless pressure. Their new goalie stood and watched for around 8 minutes without facing a shot.
This was the moment for the Swedish defenders to shine, and they did. They were the reason, along with the goalie, that this game went to OT. But it did go to OT, and three-on-three is an anything goes proposition.
That’s Sandin Morozov dekes around, and that photo up top is the aftermath.
Sandin was player of the game for Sweden and one of the three best players of the tournament as selected by the coaches. Deserved, all of it, and all of the other accolades he doesn’t want to hear right now.
And after the bronze medal game tomorrow, he’ll get a day or so off, and then he’ll fly back to .... now, that’s a good question. Where to? Toronto, of course, but to the Leafs or the Marlies? Is he going to join the Marlies on their Boat Show road trip through Texas and then go to the AHL All-Star Game in Ontario, California, or is this injury to Jake Muzzin a chance to see Sandin again in the NHL?
We’ll find out. But I know what I want to see.