by Callum Ng
February 16, 2014 (ISN) – Canada’s men’s hockey team will encounter the most complete hockey team in their group, when they play Finland tonight.
It will be the third and final prelim. round game, and decide the Group B winner to guarantee a quarter-final spot. The loser could still skip past the extra qualification game, but that would depend on how Group A shakes out with Russia and the US.
In the meantime, the focus is on a disciplined team with much better goaltending and explosive scoring. Finland has 14 goals in two games, and the contributions are spread throughout the lines. Surprisingly, Penguins’ D-man Olli Maata has four points, (2 G, 2 A), and Ducks’ blue-liner Sami Vatanen has four assists to lead the Finns. Lehtonen was steady against Norway, getting his prelim. start instead of Rask, who was shaky against Austria. That being said, both are capable. At the time of writing, we’re not sure who’ll be in the nets tonight.
It’s a good time for Canada to play their toughest resistance. Had Finland come earlier in the round, in say game one or two, any re-calibrations might not have been honestly tested against Austria or Norway. Adjustments and improvements, that’s the theme at Canadian practice, the tournament is short. The margin for error is smaller. “In a tournament like this, anytime you can finish higher and get a little advantage over your opponents you have to take it,” said Ryan Getzlaf today.
They don’t want another game. The qualification round should be avoided. That follows logic, why would any team want to be put in an elimination situation. And Mike Babcock has always talked about what has to go right, “you have to line up the moon and the stars,” he said in January of what he learned from Vancouver. The Finland game is very much a part of that. If for confidence above anything.
Teemu Selanne slanted his comments on Canada to stage the Finns as the underdogs, “It’s going to be a big challenge. It will be a tough one,” he said Saturday. Yet confidence still shone through for the 43-year-old, “We know we are not the favourites but if anyone takes us lightly they will be making a mistake. If that happens it will be to our advantage.” Selanne has a goal and an assist in the tournament.
According to the Canadian Press, Carey Price will start again for Canada. He is the no. 1, unless he plays himself out of it. After tonight Canada will definitely have a day off tomorrow, the earliest they could play again is Tuesday. Like we said, quick tournament. No time to relax, and although every game is important, this one clearly carries the most weight as Canada closes out the week in Sochi.