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Finland producing more than just great goalies

Wednesday, 07.29.2009 / 10:45 AM / NHL Insider

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Finland has produced more than its share of NHL standouts in recent years, and some could argue has become a top NHL breeding ground for goalies. Native sons Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary), Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota), Pekka Rinne (Nashville) and Kari Lehtonen (Atlanta) all are starters in the League.

Two of those goalkeepers also grace's list of the Top 10 Finns in the game today:

1. Mikko Koivu, F, Minnesota: The younger brother of Anaheim forward Saku Koivu, Mikko led all Finns last season in assists (47), points (67) and takeaways (63), he finished tied for first with four shorthanded goals and he won 52.7 percent of his 1,625 faceoffs last season. He's become a bona fide No. 1 center for the Wild and has medaled in every international competition he has participated in for Finland.

2. Miikka Kiprusoff, G, Calgary: "Kipper" continues to carry the workload for the Flames, going 45-24-5 last season with a 2.84 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. He has averaged 75 games and 41.5 victories over the last four seasons. He faced the most shots (2,155) and made the most saves (1,946) of any goalie in the League last season.

3. Niklas Backstrom, G, Minnesota: He's been firmly entrenched as the team's starter the last two seasons and finished second to Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff in wins (37-24-8) last season among Finns. Backstrom also posted a sparkling 2.33 GAA, .923 save percentage and eight shutouts -- the third-highest total in the League in 2008-09.

4. Teemu Selanne, F, Anaheim: This season -- his 17th in the League -- likely will be Selanne's last in the NHL. The 10-time All-Star has 579 goals and 1,212 points in 1,132 games, including 27 goals and 54 points in 65 games last season with the Ducks.

5. Olli Jokinen, F, Calgary: Jokinen has played for five different NHL teams in his 10 full NHL seasons and has produced wherever he's gone. He had the most goals among Finnish players last season with 29 and was second with 57 points.

6. Saku Koivu, F, Anaheim: He's overcome knee and eye injuries and has battled non-Hodgkin's lymphoma since his diagnosis in September 2001. At the conclusion of the 2008-09 campaign -- his 13th in the League -- Koivu tied Jean Beliveau as the longest-tenured captain in Montreal Canadiens history, at 10 seasons. Koivu finished fifth among Finnish players last season with 50 points, and he has 641 points in 791 career games.

7. Kimmo Timonen, D, Philadelphia: He's as consistent as they come -- recording seven straight 40-point seasons. Timonen finished seventh among Finns last season with 43 points (40 assists) and second in blocked shots (164) in 77 games.

8. Joni Pitkanen, D, Carolina: Pitkanen logged more ice time than any other Finn in the League last year, averaging 24:48 in 71 regular-season games, and he was used even more in the playoffs, averaging 26:28 in 18 games as the Hurricanes reached the Eastern Conference Finals. In the regular season, he was second in plus-minus rating (plus-11) and third in blocked shots (125) among Finns, and he scored 33 points.

9. Valtteri Filppula, F, Detroit: Filppula established career highs in Detroit last season in games played (80), assists (28) and points (40). Filppula topped all Finnish performers in the 2009 postseason with 13 assists, 16 points and a plus-8 rating.

10. Tuomo Ruutu, F, Carolina: The feisty Finn led his countrymen with 228 hits last season while finishing tied for third in scoring with 54 points in 79 games. Ruutu's 26 goals, including 10 on the power-play, ranked third among Finns in 2008-09.

Contact Mike Morreale at
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Life's about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity, and obviously he must have some swagger about him, some confidence about him, because he was solid. He made some good saves. He was 6-foot-3 on every shot, which is a good thing for a goalie. He played well. We got a win.

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