Albelin shares outlook on Sweden

Devils' assistant says disciplined teams make for balanced tourney

Friday, 02.19.2010 / 12:53 PM ET / Features
By Eric Marin
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Albelin shares outlook on Sweden
Former Devils defenseman Tommy Albelin is in his third season as a Devils assistant coach.
With Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise participating in the 2010 Olympic tournament, fans might have overlooked the two members of the Devils’ coaching staff behind the bench in Vancouver.

On the Canadian side, Jacques Lemaire is an associate under head coach Mike Babcock, while Tommy Albelin serves as an assistant for Sweden under Bengt-Ake Gustafsson.

Newjerseydevils.com spoke to Albelin, a Devils assistant coach, on Friday, with Sweden looking to go 2-0 in a meeting with Belarus.

What have you thought of the tournament so far?
Albelin: It’s a very good tournament with a lot of good players. We’re still in the preliminary rounds so a lot of teams haven’t hit their stride yet and aren’t playing as well as they can. I think these first three games are to pretty much get ready with the matchups you want and to see who fits with who. Games four and five are going to be the most critical ones.

All these teams that you don’t think are top contenders like the Swiss, Germany, Belarus, they play a pretty good team game. None of these games are easy to win. If you look at it on paper, some should almost be a 5-0 game, but they’re tough to win because they play so disciplined.

How about the matchup with Belarus?
Albelin: They’ve got some talented players, like the Russian-style talent. They have very good, individual players, but they play a pretty good defensive team game. They use a lot of counterattack and clog up the neutral zone. They’ll try to take the puck back at their blue line and counterattack.

How different is it having Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist on your side?
Albelin: I just think of him as being a goaltender. We try to prepare him the same way we would try to prepare Marty (Brodeur in New Jersey) to play the best he can for us so he can give us a chance in this tournament. (Lundqvist will rest Friday and return to the net vs. Finland on Sunday.)

Three big rivalries will be rekindled for Sunday’s games…
Albelin: All the games on Sunday are going to be great games. You’ve got Canada-U.S., us against Finland and the Russians against the Czechs. It’s going to be three really solid games, and I think that’s the way they wanted it. Everybody’s been watching the tournament anyway, but those are three really good ones before the quarterfinals start to shape up.

How has the atmosphere been in Vancouver?
Albelin: It’s been great, actually. We’re within walking distance of the rink and there’s always a lot of people, but everyone’s so helpful and polite. Everybody says, ‘Hi.’ I don’t know if there was something in Vancouver that says everybody needs to be kind to all the athletes that are here, but it’s just been tremendous that way.

Run into any Devils?
Albelin: I saw Marty in the dining hall and talked to him for a little bit. I saw Zach, Jamie. Same thing, just bumped into them and talked to them to see how things were going.

Have you had time to see any of the other events?
Albelin: So far we haven’t been able to. Today we were thinking of it, but we’re going to watch Finland play (Germany), which is after us. We’ll have some lunch, then come back and watch that game. The other chance we have is (Saturday) afternoon, if there’s an event available for us close by that we can go watch, but we haven’t really looked into it yet.

What are the keys for Sweden's defense of its 2006 Olympic gold? 
Albelin: Goaltending is going to be key, not just for us but for all the teams. And also a defensive team game, and making the right plays around the blue line. All these players we have, they’re trying to make that extra little play at the blue line, their own blue line or in the neutral zone. That’s usually when pucks should be chipped in deep. A lot of these players are trying to make that extra play and if the other teams are sharp and play well defensively, they’re going to get some chances against this team.