Saturday, January 5, 2002
Finns lack size, physical threat
ESPN hockey analyst Bill Clement breaks down the team offense and team defense, while Darren Pang looks at the goaltending of the six teams that have qualified for the final round of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
This is one of two glaring weaknesses in team Finland's make-up. Who will provide their goalscoring? They really only have two bonafide scorers: Teemu Selanne and Jere Lehtinen. Sami Kapanen may be able to help here but Finland needs someone unexpected to score some big goals for them. Ville Nieminen could be the guy. He has struggled this season in Colorado but could use the Olympics as a chance to clear his head and get things turned around. The second weakness is their size and durability. They are the least physical of the Big Six and the guys who do have size seldom use it.
| ||Bill Clement|
Finland's big team asset is their speed and for them to end up medaling, they will have to use their team speed as a foundation for team defense. What they lack in scoring, they make up for with talented defensive players up front (Juha Ylonen, Juha Lind and Olli Jokinen) and on the blueline (Kimmo Timonen, Teppo Numminen and Sami Salo).
When you factor in the inexperience of their goaltenders (none older than 26 and no previous Olympic appearances) Finland's game plan becomes a no-brainer: Smother teams defensively, keep the shots and the score down, and be offensive opportunists.
Jani Hurme is projected to play in 28 games this year for the Ottawa Senators as their No. 2 guy. He could be a surprise player in the Olympics, although his lack of big-game experience could come into play considering every country has either an NHL All-Star, Stanley Cup champ or previous gold medallist in net. Finland is definitely an underdog amongst the six powerhouses that are vying for the gold. Hurme's lack of experience could benefit him because there is less pressure on Finland to go as far as the other countries. He has good legs and lateral movement to go along with quick reflexes. And as he showed in his recent fight against Felix Potvin, he has some spunk in his game. He also has experience on the Olympic ice surface.
| ||Darren Pang|