Sweden v Finland - 2011 IIHF World Championship

Finnish fans celebrate 2011 World Championships gold by getting naked

When the Russian team shocked Canada to win the 2011 World Juniors Championship, I thought their celebration marked a new high in awesome foreign elation. While they technically remain on top since today’s story involves fan celebrations rather than drunken revelry by a team, it’s still going to be tough to top how Finnish people reacted to their team’s 6-1 gold medal win against Sweden in the 2011 World Championships.

Puck Daddy provides links to the photos, first-hand accounts and galleries if you must, but the basic gist is that normally even-keeled Finns let loose by taking off their clothes.

While the tournament isn’t given much attention in the United States, it’s a big draw overseas. If you need any more proof of that, check out this figure from a translated article via Helsingin Sanomat: about 1 out of every 2 Finnish people watched that gold medal game. The local TV telecast reportedly drew about 2.43 million viewers in Finland.

That celebration shows just how long Finland has been waiting for a gold medal in the sport (they last won one in the 1995 World Championships, also against Sweden) and how much they enjoy beating their bitter rivals from Sweden.

That Helsingin Sanomat article captured the, um, free spirited scene in Finland and what could be ahead as the team returns to the country today.

By 1 a.m. on Monday morning, both the Esplanades in downtown Helsinki were packed with jubilant hockey fans, such that the earlier rally of cars hooting their horns and with flags waving from the windows was no longer possible.

The nude statue of Havis Amanda in the Market Square was decorously draped with a Finnish team jersey, and a crowd estimated in the tens of thousands had congregated around the statue in high spirits, some of them stripping down to their underwear and jumping into the chilly water of the fountains.

The national anthem was sung lustily and off-key, people hugged complete strangers, and the crowds turning out to mark only the second-ever win in this competition – after a wait of sixteen years – were a mix of young and old alike. Many had come from bars in the centre of the city, where the match had been watched, first nervously as Sweden edged in front in the second period and then with growing delight and awed disbelief as the Finns drew level and then skated over the horizon.

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The crowds in Helsinki are likely to be even bigger this evening, when the team – and the World Championship trophy – are presented to the public at a more organised celebration in the Market Square from 19:00 until 22:00, just as occurred on the previous occasion when Finland won the title in 1995, and after Lordi’s Eurovision Song Contest triumph in 2007.

The homecoming event, arranged by the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, will also feature other artists performing, and probably a lot of singing and waving of blue and white flags, as the Finns wash away sixteen years of hurt since the last occasion when they topped the rankings in this sport that is immensely popular hereabouts.

Next time your favorite team – or even better, home country – wins a championship or gold medal, you might want to try to top those Finns. My advice is to let that urge go, unless you want to risk a public indecency wrap.

Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

“We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.

Hemsky finds his groove on third line

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on April 11, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
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When the Dallas Stars inked Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million deal, the hope was that he would be a valuable secondary scorer and help round out their top-six. Things haven’t gone as predicted, but Hemsky has emerged as a significant player for Dallas lately.

Hemsky is now playing on the third line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and he’s gone on to record 15 points in his last 16 regular season games as well as another four points in seven playoff contests.

“We had hard conversations about how I felt the game needed to be played, where I felt his game needed to go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “Did it always go his way? No. But from his defensive responsibilities to really buying into shooting the puck a little bit more, I think he’s been a real good asset for us this year.”

The Morning News goes into much more detail about Hemsky and his resurgence, but taking a step back from that, having a third line that’s both impactful without the puck and capable of chipping in offensively is important, especially as we get deeper into the playoffs. There’s no question that the Stars have big time players on their roster, but that’s obviously not all you need in the playoffs.

A lot of the time when talking about the Stars’ areas of concern, their defense and goaltending come up and understandably so given that Dallas allowed more goals in the regular season than any other team that made the playoffs. But the value of a strong bottom-six shouldn’t be understated and perhaps Hemsky’s recent resurgence will play a role in the Stars having that going for them throughout the playoffs.

Dallas has taken a 1-0 lead over St. Louis in the second round and has an opportunity to build on that in Game 2 this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET).

NHL schedules hearing with Orpik over Maatta hit

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Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.

At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.

The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.

You can see that hit below:

“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.