Who do the Swiss think they are?
Based on how they’ve handled their goaltending during the Sochi group stage, they think they’re Canada or Russia or Sweden. They think they’re an elite medal contender who can afford to sit their best player against the toughest opponent in their group.
Coach Sean Simpson made the curious decision to rest starting stopper Jonas Hiller and go with Reto Berra against Sweden Friday. Berra played admirably in a 1-0 defeat, but let’s face it: the winning goal was weak. Berra allowed a big, fat rebound on a soft Erik Karlsson shot and Daniel Alfredsson batted it home:
It’s natural to point the finger at the Swiss skaters, not Berra, as they didn’t score a goal. But it’s also fair to wonder if Hiller would’ve kept the game scoreless longer and perhaps forced a shootout, which would be anyone’s game.
And I don’t understand how a fringe medal contender like Switzerland, with potential for its best Olympic showing ever, would take a single point for granted in this tournament. Seeding matters. All 12 teams make the playoffs, yes, but the top four earn quarterfinal byes while the bottom eight must play an extra eliminator round. Losing to Sweden greatly decreases Switzerland’s chances of earning a bye.
A few readers have told me “the extra game can help,” but I don’t buy that logic for an underdog team. Upsets can happen on any given day, but the more games you play, the more the cream rises to the top. Playing four do-or-die matchups instead of three makes it more likely Switzerland regresses to the mean.
We at THN liked the Swiss as a medal sleeper. We even ranked them seventh ahead of Slovakia. But the more they take important games for granted, the more likely they are to disappoint.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin