Sunday, February 19, 2006

Finland brings it in the 1st

Shots are 14-5 Finland after the first period. My favorite player, Teemu Selanne is all over the place, playing the best hockey of his career. Selanne now has 6 goals/2 assists for 8 points early into the fourth game of this tournament. The Finns are also getting great production from Jere Lehtinen, Saku Koivu and Olli Jokinen. After outworking, out-hustling and out-muscling the Canadians in the first period, Finland is up 2-0.

Finland has now outscored their competition 17-2 after 10 periods of play. If they can hold off and win this one against the Canadians, they instantly become the favorites to win the Gold medal.

As a second-generation Canadian with a Finnish heritage, I'm torn on who to cheer for in this game. I really want Canada to defend the gold medal after winning the gold medal for the first time in a seriously long time in 2002. When you look at the rosters, Canada has far-and-away the best looking team, but for some reason, Finland has gelled as a team much quicker. Finland is playing "North American Style" hockey, and plays their heart out every single shift.

Antero Niitimaki's Goals Against Average is below 1.00, and his save percentage is above .960%. You don't win championships without solid goaltending, and the Finns have that. Brodeur and Luongo have both played well enough, but the Canadians have had a tremendously difficult time scoring. The Canadian players must still visions of that Gerber glove save haunting them every time they take a shot.

I fully expect Canada to break out in the second period, with a flurry of activity. They did it yesterday, exploding for 24 shots in the 3rd period alone, but failed to register a goal. They simply have too much talent too be kept off the scoresheets. This game will be close by the end, and I expect it to finish in a one goal victory either way.

With the close to Russia, Kazakhstan is now eliminated from quarterfinal contention. The only team with a theoretical shot of making it in is Latvia. With a win over Kazakhstan, and a loss to Russia by USA, the teams would finish tied. The tie-breaker would be goal differential. USA has a +16 advantage on Latvia, so unless Russia seriously blows out the Americans, Latvia has no shot of making it in.