Both Team Norway and Team Finland entered today’s game limping. Team Finland won their first match up of the games, true enough, but they came into the Olympics minus two of their most talented players (Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu and Tampa Bay’s Valtteri Filppula). Yesterday, Team Norway managed to keep Canada on the ropes for longer than anyone anticipated, but lost control of the game in the second period, and badly wanted to regain some of their lost momentum.
Team Finland Captain Teemu Selanne, who sat out most of the game against Austria due to a neck injury, came back strong and scored the first goal for Finland.
Seven minutes into the first, the puck popped up into the air and every player on the ice for Norway lost sight of it. When the puck fell back to the ice, it was picked up by Olli Jokinen, who had ample time to set up a perfect shot on goal, and put Finland up 2-0.
Goalie Lars Haugen was a veritable wall in the game against Canada, but floundered in the first period against Finland. A shot courtesy of Finland’s Jori Lehtera, flew right past Haugen’s ear and into the net, and there was no question we’d be seeing a different goalie between with pipes at the beginning of the second.
Except the fault for the growing goal differential didn’t lie with Norway’s goalie. Lars Volden came into goal for Norway in the second, and Finland racked up another two goals, making the score 5-0.
The real problem was Norway’s timid offense. Norway played aggressively against Canada, but for some reason they held back against Finland. There was no forecheck to be found, and Norway was consistently being out-puck handled by Finland.
Finland was able to take their time when they had possession of the puck, skate around, survey the ice and wait until an optimal play landed in their lap. Norway never should have let Finland have all that time—and it became clear Norway lacked the confidence to try and take the puck from Finland.
Norway started the third with a one man advantaged that increased to a two-man advantage after a high sticking call against Ruutu. Olimb passed neatly to Skroder, who took the shot, and finally put Norway on the board. That Norway’s only two goals in the past two games came during one-man advantages says something damning about their offensive play, though.
With two minutes left in the game, Norway made a bad line change, and couldn’t take advantage of a run at Finland’s goal by Zuccarello. Finland took possession back from Zuccarello and Maata backhanded the puck past Volden to bring the game to an end. Final score: 6-1, Finland.
Moving forward, Norway has some serious confidence they need to regain. Hopefully that can come to them when they go against the equally faltering Team Austria.
The big question for Finland ahead of their game against Canada on Sunday will be who to start in goal. Rask has the obvious seniority, and a history in the Olympics with Canada, but Antti Niemi hasn’t had any play yet these games and will be well rested and prepared. Lehtohnen won’t start, but he played well today, using every bit of his 6’4 frame to block Norway out.
Whoever Finland chooses, they go into the game against Canada real contenders. Finland has had its fair share of foibles ahead of the Olympics, but they’ve really rallied in these games. Their blue line is a potential point of weakness, but Olli Maata has performed admirably in the past two games. And their offense has proven they’re certainly capable of getting goals. Canada fumbled during their game against Norway, and they’ve improved in their play today, but Canada and Finland could prove more evenly matched in their play that anyone would have thought.