Key Matchup: Peter Forsberg vs. Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby
Forsberg (center) was devastating against the Finns
Peter Forsberg: Simply put, Peter Forsberg does it all. He wins IIHF
World Championships (1992, 1998), he wins Stanley Cups (1996, 2001), he earns 500 NHL points, he wins the Art Ross Trophy (2003), and much to the dismay of Canada, he scores the game-winning goal in the 1994 Olympic gold medal game and lands on a Swedish postage stamp. Just when you think one man could do no more, he adds another accomplishment to his resume. He is the thorn in the side of so many opponents, but none more than Team Canada internationally and the Detroit Red Wings professionally. In today's game, Forsberg will get the chance to stick a double-edged knife in the side of Kris Draper and Maltby. All three players find themselves out of the NHL playoffs earlier than expected, and today's gold medal is a shot at redemption for a long season than ended prematurely for the trio. Forsberg was quick to commit to play for Team Sweden this year in Helsinki after his NHL season ended. While other star players who suffered early-round knockouts were hemming and hawing, it was an almost immediate ecision for Forsberg to go for another World Championship gold medal. Since 1998, he has typically been busy starring for the Colorado Avalanche in the playoffs. Today's final bears some resemblance to an NHL Western Conference final matchup. Forsberg is up against several of the same players that he would have seen in the typical Colorado-Detroit series. Now he will have to be as sharp as a knife and come through in the clutch for his team, like he did when he scored twice in the five-goal quarter-final comeback against Finland. Forsberg was also the only goal-scorer in Sweden's 3-1 loss against Canada earlier in the tournament. On a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Per-Johan Axelsson, Forsberg could get his revenge against two Red Wings that ousted his Colorado Avalanche in humiliating fashion last year in Game Seven, but more importantly, he could get another golden prize for his mantelpiece.
Kris Draper forms one of the NHL's most tenacious checking duos with Kirk Maltby
Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper: There's no one on the ice who would get more pleasure out of defeating Peter Forsberg than Kris Draper the only thing better might be a win over former Forsberg linemate Claude Lemieux in a boxing ring. Since Lemieux's infamous 1996 hit on Draper, any member of the Colorado Avalanche has been considered Public Enemy Number One, fueling an already intense Colorado-Detroit rivalry. Add Forsberg's gold medal game shootout performance in the Olympics and you have the makings of one of the feistiest international matchups in recent history. Kirk Maltby and Draper were solid in Canada's 3-1 win over Sweden earlier in the tournament and are playing on a line together with Shane Doan, who has five points in this tournament. Draper has steadily improved with the Red Wings during his ten-year career. He continues to set career highs with each passing season and, like a fine wine, gets better with age. Maltby rebounded from a 2000 injury with ease, and has missed almost no games since then. He also has a knack for scoring game-winning goals against Forsberg and the Avalanche, most notably in the Game 1 of the 1999 series, plus one of his two goals during his injury-plagued 1999-2000 season in a memorable regular season game. As members of the "Grind Line," Maltby and Draper have both played a big role in the Detroit dynasty, but as the pair learned quickly this season in a disappointing sweep by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, you're only as good as your last game. Maltby had never played in the World Championships before but has an impressive two goals and two assists at this year's tournament. Draper has yet to score a goal at this year's World Championships and one in the gold medal game could be twice as special. Especially if it leads to the playing of O Canada.