In my final Olympic preview (Rob will finish things off with a look at team Canada tomorrow) I take a look at the country with the most medals in Olympic hockey with NHL participation: Team Finland.
Team Finland won a bronze medal in Vancouver with a victory over Slovakia. Finland is no stranger to the podium, winning medals at 4 of the last 5 Olympics; however they have never won a gold medal.
Round Robin Opponents
Finland will be competing in group B along with Canada, Norway, and Austria.
Finland has a hard working forward group that is thin on high end skill. Led by Mikko Koivu, the Finns will need to be opportunistic to score enough to compete with the likes of Canada, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. A couple of Finnish legends will likely be appearing in their final Olympics: Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu will be back for one last crack at Olympic gold. Youngster Mikael Granlund should be appearing in his first Olympics, and will be one of the key contributors for team Finland.
Jussi Jokinen – Mikko Koivu – Teemu Selanne
Valtteri Filppula – Olli Jokinen – Mikael Granlund
Leo Komarov – Saku Koivu – Tuomo Ruutu
Lauri Korpikoski – Petri Kontiola – Juhamatti Aaltonen
The Finns have a mix of young and old on the blue line. Leading the charge are veterans Kimmo Timonen and Sami Salo (if he isn’t injured when the tournament rolls around). Finland will also need steady play from youngsters Sami Vatanen and Olli Maata. Finland’s defence is outmatched against the other contenders, but their goaltending will make them look better than they are. Longtime national team member Joni Pitkanen would be a lock for the team, but he’s dealing with a potential career ending injury.
Kimmo Timonen – Sami Salo
Ossi Vaananen – Sami Vatanen
Olli Maata – Sami Lepisto
Goaltending is a huge area of concern for Finland, as there’s serious worry the coaches of the team will be sleep deprived and ineffective from having to pick a starter between Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, and Kari Lehtonen. Finland is a goalie factory, so much so that the guys left off the team would be starters for a few of the contenders (Russia would love to borrow Antti Niemi). Rask gets the nod from me, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of their three goalies play. Superb goaltending will keep the Finns competitive in every game and make them a legitimate medal threat.
Most likely to get snubbed
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi is a glaring omission, but with Finland’s insane goaltending depth, he’ll have to watch from home. Ville Leino is another notable that will not make the team. His play has been on the decline since signing a big contract with Buffalo a couple of seasons ago (he currently has no goals and one assist, playing less than 13 minutes for a terrible Sabres team).
With the ridiculous goaltending the Finns have to choose from, they’re once again a legitimate medal threat with an outside chance at gold. As good as their goaltending is, the rest of the roster lags too far behind the other top contenders for me to see them making the gold medal game. Ultimately, I see them ending up in a low scoring bronze medal game that could go either way.
Other Roster Previews:
November 11: Russia
November 12: USA
November 13: Sweden
November 14: Czech Republic
November 18: Slovakia
November 19: Switzerland
November 20: Finland
November 21: Canada
November 26: Latvia
November 28: Austria
December 2: Norway
December 3: Slovenia
Don’t agree? Tell Tyler on Twitter: @WildeCanucks