Breakdown: Finland vs. Canada

Updated: September 11, 2004, 11:46 PM ET
By Darren Pang | Special to ESPN.com

EDGE
Even strength
Team Canada's firepower is deeper and stronger than Finland's, and they've got a lot of game-breakers.




EDGE
Team Finland power play
vs. Team Canada penalty kill

I like the Finns' power play, but Team Canada's penalty kill has only given up one goal. I give the edge to the Canadians because their defensemen are so big and their sticks are so long that they clog up passing lanes. Robyn Regher is 6-foot-3 and plays with a long stick, and Adam Foote is one of the nastiest guys on the blue line that you'll ever find. So when you're around those players, it's hard to feather those little passes. At the same time, they're very physical. Except for tonight's game, I like the way Team Canada has played in its own end.

EDGE
Team Canada power play
vs. Team Finland penalty kill

Team Canada's power-play numbers are a little misleading. Canada went 2-for-5 in its first game against the U.S., but it struggled after that before scoring a key power-play goal against the Czech Republic. Maybe that will jump start them a little bit. Canada uses two units and both have forwards at the point -- Joe Sakic and Brad Richards. That's an area the Finns will look to exploit by causing turnovers at the blue line.

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Goaltending
Oh, this is a good one. If Martin Brodeur is going to come back and play on Tuesday, he's not going to be 100 percent. Roberto Luongo made some enormous saves against the Czechs, but at times was a little sloppy around his net. So for that, I'm going to give a slight edge to Miikka Kiprusoff. However, Kiprusoff has not yet felt the offensive pressure that he's going to feel in the Air Canada Centre. There were many games where he only faced 12 to 15 shots on goal. It won't be that way in the final. I'm still going to give him the edge, based on the injury to Brodeur.

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Coaching
I would give the edge to the Canadians, based on their overall preparation and the fact that they have so many hockey minds, not just behind the bench but running their team. The thing about Pat Quinn is he's not a tactical coach. He doesn't worry too much about matchups and all those things. He has Ken Hitchcock and Jacques Martin to worry about that. Quinn gets players prepared to play; he's a motivator. He's an old-school coach who, in a one-game series, I think has the edge. The Finns, though they continue to win, have had a difficult time really liking their coach.

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Intangibles
The Finns have a lot of heart and they play for one another. What happened between the coach and Janne Niinimaa, which caused the defenseman to leave the team, may have created an even stronger bond among the players and against the coach. That's something that you can't under estimate. Kiprusoff has the ability to suck the life out of another team and win a game on his own.

Even if Canada isn't the home team -- it will be determined by a coin flip on Sunday -- the Canadians will be playing in front of the home crowd, so they'll have an emotional advantage.

Another intangible is the way Team Canada beat the Czech Republic. The Canadians won the game by taking the lead, then giving it back. Yet they had the resilience to win the game in overtime. When you manage to win without playing your best game, it builds a lot of camaraderie and strength in the locker room.

Then there is the magic of Mario. I think he finds a way to end his international hockey career on a positive note.

EDGE
Prediction
Oh, Canada in a tight 3-2 contest. I know that the Finns are great backcheckers and they never give up, but they've also never been in this environment.

 

Darren Pang, a former goaltender with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.

Darren Pang joined ESPN2 as an NHL game analyst in September 1993. He also works select ESPN National Hockey Night playoff contests and ABC Sports' telecasts. Pang played for the Blackhawks and was named to the All-Rookie team in 1987.

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