SOCHI, Russia – A reporter suggested to Swedish star Daniel Alfredsson Thursday that his country's winning ways in men's hockey may be the best-kept secret at the Sochi Olympics.
"Let's keep it that," Alfredsson said.
That's an impossible task now that Sweden has downed Finland 2-1 to earn a place in Sunday's gold medal game against either the USA or Canada. Those two teams meet Friday night in the other semifinal.
The Swedes have run off five consecutive wins, all in regulation, to reach the gold medal game for the second time in the past three Olympics. The Swedes won gold in 2006.
Three weeks ago, the Swedes were considered one of the tournament medal favorites, but that changed after Henrik Sedin announced he couldn't play because of a rib injury and Henrik Zetterberg pulled out after one game in Sochi because of a back problem.
With those two difference-makers sidelined, the expectations for the Swedes were softened. But the expected dip in the Swedes' performance level never happened.
They have now outscored the opposition 17-6 while displaying a determined playing style that will keep them competitive in the gold medal game. Their defense is efficient, and their offense is still effective, despite the loss of the two stars.
The Swedes seemingly caught a break in the semifinal when Finland's No. 1 goalie, Tuukka Rask, couldn't play because of illness. However, he was replaced by Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who was solid.
The Swedes and Finns are neighbors and they are not friendly to each other. Their rivalry is intense. Their semifinal was scoreless after one period, and the Finns scored the first goal when Olli Jokinen won a race to the puck in the Swedish zone and swatted a shot that leaked through goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at 6:17 of the second period.
Loui Eriksson tied the score at 11:39 of the period when he converted a pass from Jonathan Ericsson.
The game-winner came on the power play when Erik Karlsson ripped a slap shot through Lehtonen from 55 feet for his fourth goal of the tournament. Unquestionably, Karlsson is the most dominant offensive defenseman in the tournament.