Sochi 2014: Finland Olympic Team Review
EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of RotoWire’s Olympic Preview for the 22nd Winter Olympiad, we have asked six of our hockey writers to review each team in depth to analyze each team’s strengths and weaknesses, and what they think their chances for winning the Olympic gold are. Make sure you check in each day this week for a new team preview.
“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”
When it comes to Finland Olympic hockey, there are two truths we must delve into quickly before analyzing their Sochi roster. No country has won more medals than Finland (three) since NHL players were given the green light to participate in Olympic competition (Nagano, 1998). Secondly, none of those medals have been a gold.
Centers: 6 / 10
Wingers: 7 / 10
Much like a bad Geico commercial, we already knew Teemu Selanne would make the team for a sixth time. However, the frequency in which Selanne has been sitting out games as a healthy scratch and scoring when he does may suggest a quiet Sochi games. Perhaps something magical will happen and the Finnish Flash will inspire a locker room, “do it for the gipper” type scenario putting a charge into players like Lauri Korpikoski, Mikael Granlund or Tuomo Ruutu. It certainly won’t be Saku Koivu who declined his invitation. Mikko Koivu is battling back from ankle surgery, but is “confident” he can take brother Saku’s captaincy and first line centering duties in time for play. In all likelihood, it’s Valtteri Filppula and Jussi Jokinen who will carry the most weight of the offensive load for Finland. If you’re looking for a surprise impact, look no further than Sean Bergenheim and Aleksander Barkov. Although both forwards will likely be stuck in third or fourth line duties, they have both contributed during the NHL season and helped the over-achieving Florida Panthers remain in playoff contention.
Defense: 7 / 10
Whether it’s Selanne or the forgotten Olli Jokinen, the Finland forwards will need to take the spotlight. While Jusso Hietanen (22 points in 41 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL) and Lasse Kukkonen (10 goals, 10 assists in 32 games with Karpat) are performing admirably in Europe this season, Kimmo Timonen, Olli Maatta or any d-man by the first name Sami (Salo, Lepisto, Vatanen) have limited offensive potential.
Goaltending: 8 / 10
When it comes to the last man standing, we can assume Finland GM Jari Kurri gasped as Pekka Rinne went down with a hip issue in late October. Now, the Fins will rely on the health of Tuukka Rask. Kari Lehtonen likely won’t see much action as Antti Niemi has certainly outplayed Lehtonen in the NHL this season. Regardless, like the Boston Bruins… how Rask goes, so does Finland.