After sweeping aside the disappointment of failing to reach the gold medal game, the United States and Finland prepare to battle for hardware of a different color. While the shade fails to possess the type of luster each country sought when they embarked on their Olympic journey, there is still something to be said for not coming home empty-handed.
The United States began their quest winning all three games of preliminary play by defeating the Slovakia 7-1, Russia in a shootout 3-2 and Slovenia 5-1 allowing them to finish atop Group A. After earning a first-round bye, the Americans dispatched the Czech Republic 5-2 to advance to the semi-final, a game they lost to Canada 1-0.
In these five games, the United States has scored 20 goals, three while with the man-advantage, while only allowing 7, one of which while shorthanded. They have scored on 20 of their 151 shots for a scoring percentage of 13.25%, tops in the tournament. In special teams, they have the tournament’s fifth-ranked power play scoring on 3 of 14 opportunities for a 21.43% conversion rate while ranking third in shorthanded conditions allowing only 1 goal on 12 situations for a 91.67% survival rate.
Offensively, despite the 1-0 loss to Canada, the United States had been getting contributions on all parts of the ice with twelve different players scoring goals. Of their 20 scores, 3 have come from defensemen. Phil Kessel leads all scorers in the tournament with 5 goals and 3 assists for 8 points. David Backes has three goals and both Dustin Brown and Paul Stastny have a pair followed by eight other players with one goal. Only one player, captain Zach Parise, has a negative rating at -1.
Defensively, the Americans play a solid, team game where forwards back check and defensemen limit quality scoring chances on net. Their physical, north-to-south play served them well until Canada played that same game, but with better results. Jonathan Quick has been solid all tournament in goal. Appearing in four games, Quick has stopped 108 of 114 shots for a save percentage of 0.947 and a 1.47 goals against average. Expect him to remain solid giving the Americans a chance to win the bronze medal.
As for Finland, they started the tournament defeating Austria 8-4 and Norway 6-1 before losing in overtime to Canada 2-1 in preliminary play. This placed Finland second in Group B just behind Canada. By achieving the fourth best record, Finland gained a first round bye before defeating the host nation 3-1 and the losing to Sweden 2-1 in the semi-final.
In these five games, Finland has scored 19 goals, three while with the man-advantage, while only allowing 10 three of which while shorthanded. They have scored on 19 of their 154 shots for a scoring percentage of 12.34%, second in the tournament. In special teams, they have the tournament’s sixth-ranked power play scoring on 3 of 16 opportunities for an 18.75% conversion rate while ranking last in shorthanded conditions allowing only 4 goals on 10 situations for a 60.00% survival rate.
Offensively, Finland has a highly-balanced scoring attack with twelve different players scoring goals. Of their 18 scores, just 2 have come from defensemen. Mikael Granlund leads all goal scorers with 3 while Olli Jokinen, Teemu Selanne, Jarkko Immonen and Lauri Korpikoski each have 2. Olli Maata has contributed two goals from the backline. Each player has a positive player rating with Tuomo Ruutu leading the team with a +5.
Defensively, Finland tightens up their own end of the ice and relies on solid goaltending when the defensive corps has a breakdown. Regular starter Tuukka Rask will likely not start or be on the bench as he continues to battle the flu. Worth back-up Kari Lehtonen will likely get the nod with Antti Niemi in a back-up role.
In his only preliminary game, Lehtonen stopped 20 of 21 in the 6-1 defeat of Norway. Interestingly, he also added 2 assists in that game. Against Sweden in the semi-final game, he stopped 23 of 25 shots in the 2-1 loss.
Expect the Finns to exploit the larger ice surface against the United States while the Americans will continue to employ a physical, up-and-down game to win.
The bronze-medal game between the United States and Finland can be seen Saturday at 10:00 AM Eastern time on NBCSN and CBC.
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