Germans look to slay Finland
Friday, 02.19.2010 / 8:55 PM
Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing EditorFinland (1-0-0-0, 3 points) vs. Germany (0-0-1-0, 0 points)
NOTE: records are presented as three-point wins (regulation time), two-point wins (OT or shootout), one-point losses (OT or shootout), zero-point losses (regulation time).
What to watch
-- If you like tense, low-scoring, hard-hitting hockey, this might be the best game of the preliminary round. Both teams pride themselves on playing hard in all three zones and punishing forwards in the attacking zone. Plus, each has a world-class goalie. Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, if he plays again for Finland, allowed just one goal on Wednesday against Belarus. Germany's Thomas Greiss, of the San Jose Sharks, was brilliant Wednesday against Sweden, allowing just two goals against the defending Olympic champions. After struggling to solve Belarus at even strength for more than a period, Finland used some of its younger players to blow the game open in the final 40 minutes. Germany had no such luck and has to find some offense if they hope to pull off the upset that is their goal for this tournament.
Finland beat Belarus, 5-1; Germany was defeated by Sweden, 2.-0.
-- All eyes will be on Teemu Selanne, who is one point from breaking the Olympics points record. He tied the mark Wednesday afternoon with a secondary assist on Olli Jokinen's power-play goal to open the game. But, it was not Finland's top line -- featuring Selanne, Saku Koivu and Jere Lehtinen -- that did the damage in the first game. It was younger players Niklas Hagman (two goals) and Mikko Koivu (three assists) that provided the spark. While that will need to continue, Finland would like to see its top line find its groove before Sunday's winner-take-all game Group C match against rival Sweden.
"Obviously our team, we know we can't take anybody lightly," Selanne said. "We want to play every game better and better and try to build to the big games. We know Germany is a good hockey team and we have to play better and better every game."
-- After a very impressive effort in the 2-0 loss to defending gold-medal holder Sweden, German coach Uwe Krupp talked about wanting his team to be tough to play against. The Germans were certainly that in their first game, and the Finns can expect a healthy dose of the same on Friday. The Germans will still display an all-hands-on-deck philosophy in their own end and count on the goaltending of Greiss to keep them in the contest. "It should be the same attitude as (against Sweden)," Sturm said. "Everyone could see we can play too - we just have to believe."
Total NHL players in game
-- Finland: 18. Germany: 7
-- The Germans believe they can win this game. It is rare that a loss engenders confidence, but it is clear that the Germans are flying high after keeping an explosive Swede offense in check. The Germans had three shots hit posts in the game against Sweden, as well, so they know they were really in the game. Now, it is just a matter of finding some offense to put a scare into an opponent. "I think if we'd got the first goal it could have been different," German defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said. "I think we can play with a little more confidence offensively. I'm unhappy with the end result. But I think we can play a little better and hopefully win the next one."
NHL.com predicts --
Germany will make the Finns work for everything they get, but, much like in the Sweden game, depth will be the telling point. The Finns just have too much quality to bring to bear and their young players have started to come to the forefront, making the squad even more dangerous. It will be close, but, in the end, Finland wins by a 3-1 margin.