World Cup of Hockey Previews: Finland
Finland has been a world power since the early 1990s. Yet they have never won it all in a best-on-best tournament.
They have medalled (2 silver, 4 bronze) in six of the last eight Olympics. People have long forgotten that Finland finished second at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, falling 3-2 in a tight championship game. They have won two gold medals (and 8 silver, 3 bronze) at the World Championships, though that isn't truly best on best.
Let's just say they are overdue for a championship.
The Finns have the perfect mixture to get the job done - experience, depth, goaltending, skill. They are so strong positionally and can roll all four lines in waves.
The Finns will be taken as far as goalies Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne take them. No country has better goaltending than Finland, not even Canada.
With an average age of 24, the Finnish blueline is a little less experienced than some in the tournament. But the team's bread and butter is team defense. These young stars will be well sheltered by the hardest working group of forwards in the tournament.
The Finns feature four lines that play hard-nosed, two way hockey. So many, of their forwards can be described as reliable or savvy. This is very much a team that is more than the sum of it's parts.
With the likes of Jari Kurri, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu now retired, Finland desperately needs a superstar to emerge to lead this team offensively. While all eyes may be on 18 year old Patrik Laine, this very much be Aleksandr Barkov's coming out party. Barkov may be the NHL's best kept secret right now, but not for much longer. I truly believe he is on the verge of being a top 10 player in all of hockey very soon.
Finland has the goaltending, team defense and balanced attack to take this tournament. I suspect Finland will