NEWS

Americans not looking past Finland

Friday, 02.26.2010 / 11:18 AM ET / News
NHL.com
X
Share with your Friends


Americans not looking past Finland
A berth in the gold medal game is at stake Friday, but Team USA is determined not to look past Finland, its semifinal opponent, to a potential rematch with Canada.
VANCOUVER -- So close to the gold-medal game that only they believe they are worthy of, the Americans are not going to get caught looking past Friday's semifinal match against Finland at Canada Hockey Place.
 
The stakes are far too high to get caught up in flights of fancy about playing for Olympic immortality in what will be the signature event of the 2010 Games. For Team USA, only Friday and only Finland matter -- not the 4-0 record that delivered them to this point nor what awaits if they can defeat a stubborn Finnish side that won silver four years ago.
 
"You want to keep yourself in the right head space for sure," said goalie Ryan Miller, who has been brilliant throughout the tournament, allowing just five goals in four games. "We have a very difficult game against Finland coming up.
 
"They are a very fast, very well-organized team. They have has some big shots from the point on their power play to mix with some skill around the net, so it is going to be a challenge and a tough game."
 
Miller knows what is on tap.
 
He probably watched Wednesday night in the late quarterfinal when the Slovaks used their speed and some well-placed shots to torment Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had not allowed a goal in pool play. When it was over, Lundqvist had watched four shots find the back of his net and the Slovaks were celebrating their historic 4-3 victory.
 
The Swedes, likely thinking about a semifinal showdown against Canada, were suddenly no longer defending Olympic champions. Instead, they were just one of the eight teams eliminated before the medal round.
 
But if his teammates need a reminder of the challenges that await on Friday against Finland, perhaps they should just look in the mirror.
 
The young, brash Americans have spent this tournament putting teams on their heels by playing a team game, heavy on speed and physicality, with some clutch scoring and stellar goaltending thrown in for good measure.
 
For those unfamiliar with the Finnish game, that is the exact game plan the Finns used to get to the gold-medal game four years ago in Turin. It is also how Finland reached the final of the 2004 World Cup before losing to the host Canadians.
 
"They have a lot of energy guys," fourth-line forward David Backes said. "They also have a ton of skill, so we need to make sure we get pucks behind them and not feeding their offense by turning pucks over in the neutral zone.
 
"They've got the talent to beat anyone in this tournament. We need to make sure we are outworking them to go along with the talent we have in our lineup. I think if we win the work ethic battle, we like our chances. If we don't win the work ethic battle, then it is up in the air and anything can happen."
 
The Finns will play a passive 1-2-2 forecheck, hoping the lead forechecker can force the American defenders into turnovers. In the offensive zone, the Finns will cycle and try to punish the American defenders. They will also activate their defense more than most teams the Americans have faced in this tournament.
 
Olympic Gear Both Kimmo Timonen, a member of the all-tournament team in Turin, and Joni Pitkanen are world-class offensive defensemen.

"They are really active in the zone from what we have seen," American defensemen Erik Johnson said. "Timonen likes to go back door, and Pitkanen he likes to get on the offense, too. That will be a little more of a challenge because we have only played Canada that really likes to involve their D."
 
But, in the end, the Americans know it will be intensity and effort -- not Xs and Os -- that will determine who wins this likely showdown of smash-mouth hockey 
 
"They have great speed, they are going to be a great transition team and they are going to be a tough team," said American defenseman Jack Johnson, who doesn't mind the rough-and-tumble going. It's going to be a great game. It's just going to be two tough teams going at it."

Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 75 16 27 -6 43
M. Cammalleri 68 27 15 2 42
P. Elias 69 13 21 -20 34
S. Gomez 58 7 27 -10 34
S. Bernier 67 16 16 2 32
T. Zajac 74 11 14 -3 25
A. Larsson 64 3 21 2 24
A. Greene 82 3 19 1 22
E. Gelinas 61 6 13 -2 19
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 31 9 .925 2.26
K. Kinkaid 6 5 4 .915 2.59