For the Finns this year, they hoping that the familiarity and recent experience that helped win the Silver Medal in Italy in 2006 will help them bring home their first ever Olympic Gold Medal after losing to Sweden in 2006. 15 of the players that played in Italy are back including for some guys where this could be their final shot at Olympic Gold including Dallas Stars forward Jere Lehtinen and Teemu Selanne who are both playing in their 4th Olympic Games and each were among the top scores for Finland in 2006.
The goaltender position has a ton of NHL and International Experience as Mikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom are expected to fight it out to be the starter while Antero Nittymaki who is also returning will probably be the #3 goalie for the team. What may give Backstrom the edge is his form right now as Kiprusoff where despite having strong numbers with a 2.20 GAA and a .924 SV%, he's been known to leak some critical goals and without much of a backup in Calgary right now, they doesn't seem to be very much pushing him right now for the Flames.
Backstrom has lesser numbers, but has shown a better ability to keep his fitness up and recover quicker in fast turnarounds then Kiprusoff and seems to make the bigger saves better despite having a weak team around him right now this season for the Minnesota Wild.
The Finns also bring back a defense that had the best team defense in the Olympics in 2006 that gave up 8 goals in the 8 games which included shutouts against Switzerland, Canada. The Quarterfinals where after a surprisingly bad group round, the Americans fought hard to come back only to lose 4-3. Then in the Semifinals, a convincing 4-0 win over Russia got them to the Gold Medal Game before losing a very close 3-2 game against the Sweds for the Gold Medal.
Also perhaps one of the best defensemen that was named to the all Olympic Tournament Team, Kimmo Timonen will be joined like Lasse Kukkonen and Saku Koivu who have been regulars on the Olympic Roster in recent years. Joining him will be 3 new fresh faces with Junior and IHWC experience, but are making their Olympic Debuts in Sami Lepisto (PHX), Joni Pitkanen and Janne Niskala who plays in Sweden for Frolunda.
Can the Finns take that final step and win the Countries first ever Olympic Gold Medal or will will they fall off again on the biggest stage what happened in 2006. With this roster, and with a great element of dangerous scoring potential, solid goaltenders and a rock hard defense that was next to impossible to score on at times, the Finns are going all in to win gold.
Finland will be in Group C where the Sweden VS. Finland game is expected to be the marquee game of the group to wrap up the Group and should be for the Group Winner and a 2nd round bye. As for the loser, they still may have a shot at getting the 4th and final 2nd round bye that will go to the team with the best 2nd place team.
But first, it's a game against Belarus who's coming back after missing out in 2006 then Germany who's bringing up a game against Germany who's looking to comeback after a the Germans didn't win a single game in 2006, which included a tie against Lowly Italy.
Like a majority of the powerhouse teams, an impressive 18 players will be from the NHL. As for the other 5, 4 of them are from the KHL's biggest teams like Avangard Omsk and AK Bars Kazan. Only one player coming from the Swedish Elitsern and no one from Finland's top league called the SM-Liiga.
Team Finland Group Stage Schedule
2/17: VS. Belarus 2:00 PM
2/19: VS. Germany 10:55 PM
2/21: VS. Sweden 10:55 PM
Team Finland Roster
Niklas Backstrom, 6'2" 196, Helsinki FIN, Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Mikka Kiprusoff, 6'2" 190, Turku FIN, Calgary Flames (NHL)
Antero Nittyamki, 6'1" 195, Turku FIN, Tampa Bay Lighting (NHL)
Lasse Kukkonen, 6'0" 187, Oulu FIN, Avangard Omsk (RUS, KHL)
Sami Lepisto, 6'1" 195, Espoo FIN, Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)
Toni Lydman, 6'1" 202, Lahti FIN, Buffalo Sabres (NHL)
Janne Niskala, 6'0" 187, Vasteras FIN, Frolunda Gothenburg (Elitersen, SWE)
Joni Pitkanen, 6'3" 202, Oulu FIN, Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)
Sami Salo, 6'3" 212, Turku FIN, Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
Kimmo Timonen, 5'10" 196, Kuopio FIN, Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
Valtteri Filppula, 6'0" 189, Vantaa FIN, Detroit Red Wings (NHL)
Niklas Hagman, 6'0" 205, Espoo FIN, Calgary Flames (NHL)
Jarkko Immonen, 6'0" 209, Kuopo FIN, AK Bars Kazan (RUS, KHL)
Olli Jokinen, 6'3" 210, Kuopo FIN, New York Rangers (NHL)
Niko Kapanen, 5'9" 180, Hattula FIN, AK Bars Kazan (RUS, KHL)
Mikko Koivou, 6'2" 205, Turku FIN, Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Saku Koivou, 5'10" 183, Turku FIN, Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
Jere Lehtinen, 6'0" 200, Espoo FIN, Dallas Stars (NHL)
Antti Miettinen, 6'0" 190, Hameelinna FIN, Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Ville Peltonen, 5'11" 185, Vantaa FIN, Dynamo Minsk (BLR, KHL)
Jarkko Ruutu, 6'2" 195, Helsinki FIN, Ottawa Senators (NHL)
Tuomo Ruutu, 6'2" 202, Vantaa FIN, Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)
Teemu Selanne, 6'0" 200, Helsinki FIN, Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
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