Are you ready?!?! We’re a day away from the olympic ice hockey tournament semifinals and it features two of the biggest rivalries in international hockey!!! One of them is Finland-Sweden and it’s time to preview that one set for tomorrow morning. Click here for a preview of the Canada-United States semifinal.
There were a lot of doubts about this Finnish team after some of the injuries they’ve suffered up front and they erased those doubts with some dominating offensive performances and gritty wins, including one over the host Russians in the quarterfinals. The Swedes, however, can into the tournament with aspirations of gold and were the favorite to win gold, in my opinion. They’ve bowled over teams in their way to earning the #1 seed in the elimination round, having not lost a game yet. They faced Slovenia in the quarterfinals and defeated them handedly, but it took until the third period for them to break the game wide open.
Both teams have a very balanced attack. Both have 18 different players that have registered a point, including goaltender Kari Lehtonen of Finland, who has 2 assists, and Henrik Lundqvist, who has 1 assist. However, the Swedish attack features more NHL talent and much of the Finns crop of forwards feature midline type of guys. Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Steen, Loui Eriksson, Daniel Sedin, Gabriel Landeskog, just to name a few. They’re also missing the better Sedin, Henrik, and Henrik Zetterberg who was hurt in the opening game of the tournament, as well as some other good forwards. For Finland, the young Mikael Granlund has paced them in scoring with 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points. Meanwhile, veterans Teemu Selanne, Olli Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen have provided some good experience and offense as well.
Erik Karlsson for Sweden has arguably been the best player in the entire tournament. He has tallied 3 goals and 4 assists while playing +5 hockey. Along with Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is +5 and has contributed 3 assists. Don’t forget about Niklas Kronwall as he is the backbone of that entire Swedish defense. For Finland, the youngsters on the blueline have been on display in a big way. Defensemen Olli Maatta and Sami Vatanen have been very good and have contributed 8 total points (4 each). In fact, Vatanen leads the team in ice time. Some former NHLers in Ossi Vaananen and Lasse Kukkonen, together with current NHLers Sami Salo and Kimmo Timonen, have created a solid band of defenseman who play very well together.
This game may come down to the goaltenders. Each team has a goaltender who could be considered the best in the world. Finland, has maybe 2 or 3 that could argue for that title honestly. The goaltending matchup of Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist is gonna be a joy to watch.
I think that Sweden has the upper hand in this one. I think they have the better team and I think they have the defense to shut down the Finnish attack that some would say has over-performed in this tournament. So, my official prediction, even though I don’t like to make predictions, is that Sweden will take this one in a low-scoring game, maybe 2-1 or 3-1.
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