In the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Team Finland defeated Slovakia to win the bronze medal. In order to medal in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, they’re going to have rely heavily on their goaltending with some key injuries to arguably their best two forwards, Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula.
So, without Koivu, and his brother Saku Koivu, and Filppula, the Finns will have to rely more on their young guns. Aleksander Barkov and Mikael Granlund are two of the best young forwards in the NHL and both of them have outstanding potential and outstanding skills. Mixed together with midline guys like Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen, Olli Jokinen and Lauri Korpikoski, the offense is going to have to be a group effort. Of course, they do have the magic of legend Teemu Selanne. However, he is really starting to show his age.
On the blue line, they’re lead by two wily veterans in Kimmo Timonen and Sami Salo. Both can contribute on the power play, but can they be responsible in their own zone against some offensive powerhouses like Canada. Much like the group of forwards, they do have some very intriguing young defenseman, Sami Vatanen and Olli Maatta. We’ve seen Vatanen’s ability to contribute in the offensive game and at times be solid in his own zone. The same can be said with Maatta who is enjoying a good rookie season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, how will the two young defenseman fair against the top talent in the world?
The Finns have the best crop of goaltenders in this tournament by far. Their third goaltender on the depth chart is Kari Lehtonen and that is insane. Lehtonen has shown in the past few years with the Dallas Stars that he can be an elite goaltender. From there it only gets even more insane. Their likely backup will be Antti Niemi, a 2013 Vezina finalist. Their likely starter will be Tuukka Rask, one of the favorites for the 2014 Vezina. Not to mention that they’re missing Pekka Rinne due to injury. THAT IS FRIGGIN’ NUTS.
Finland are in Group B along with Austria, Canada and Norway. So, they have about a 99.9% chance of getting out of the group. They should beat Austria and Norway, but they would need a legendary performance from Rask to pull the upset over Canada. I think it’ll be tough for the Finns to challenge for a medal just because of the lack of offense.
I will be covering both Finland and Switzerland during the men’s ice hockey tournament. Expect a preview for Switzerland’s men’s ice hockey team by tomorrow or Wednesday.
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