Tag: Teemu Selanne

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21: Teemu Selanne #8 of Finland looks on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against Sweden on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Selanne: Finns were ‘one step behind the whole game’

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Finland looked great in beating Russia in the Olympic quarterfinals but, according to its veteran leader, that win came at a cost.

“We were one step behind the whole game,” Finnish forward Teemu Selanne said after his team’s 2-1 loss to Sweden in the semifinals. “Maybe the Russia game took so much energy from us.”

As great a team as Finland is, the Olympics were a constant uphill battle. Selanne, 43, represents a squad that leaned heavily on its old guard. The Finnish roster includes four players that are at least 35 years old and another eight guys in their 30s.

Further taxing was a series of injuries both before and during the tournament that decimated them up the middle. The Finnish lineup would have certainly looked different if centers Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula and Aleksander Barkov were healthy.

On top of that, starting goaltender Tuukka Rask was a late scratch today due to an illness.

This match against Sweden did nothing to rejuvenate the Finns, but they have to push onward. Although their quest for the gold medal is finished, they still have one game left in their schedule. One last chance for Selanne to add to his collection of Olympic medal.

Here are your Olympic semifinal matchups

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 19: Teemu Selanne #8 of Finland skates during the Men's Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff against Russia on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

All four top seeds beat their quarterfinals opponents, which means that the Russians have been eliminated and we have a pair of fierce rivals set to play each other in the semifinals.

Both games will take place on Friday and be played at the Bolshoy Ice Dome:

Sweden vs. Finland (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) — Watch it live online

The Scandinavian neighbors will face off in a rematch of the 2006 gold medal game.

Both of these teams have done a tremendous job overcoming injuries in this tournament. Finland is playing without several of its top centers including Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula, and Aleksander Barkov while Sweden has been forced to get by without Henrik Sedin, Johan Franzen, and Henrik Zetterberg. Even still, these squads have been two of the most effective offensively in the Olympics.

This contest will feature a classic goaltending matchup between Finland’s Tuukka Rask and Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist. This will also be a game between two of these nation’s greatest hockey heroes of all-time in Daniel Alfredsson and Teemu Selanne

United States versus Canada (12 p.m. ET, NBCSN) — Watch it live online

Four years ago the United States came into the Olympics as underdogs, but they beat Canada in the round robin and then took the Canadians to overtime in the gold medal game before Sidney Crosby brought an end to America’s run. This time around, there is no underdog and there is no favorite. Granted, Canada still boosts the stronger lineup on paper, but in practice the Americans have had a far more impressive tournament.

While the Canadians have been adjusting to the big ice and at times struggling to gain traction, nearly every forward on the U.S. squad has been clicking. The Americans have scored at least five goals in three of their last four contests. By comparison, Canada has only done that once in its game against Austria.

Five theories why the Russians lost

Sochi Olympics Ice Hockey Men

1. Their best players weren’t good enough

Save for Pavel Datsyuk, who was excellent, and Ilya Kovalchuk, who ended the tournament with three goals, including the only one versus the Finns. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Alex Semin all failed to produce the type of offense that was needed, given their talent. Alexander Radulov had six points in five games, but he also took two costly penalties in the shootout loss to the United States. Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov made specific mention of Ovechkin in the post-game press conference, saying he couldn’t explain why such a great goal-scorer could only score once in five games. Speaking of the coach…

2. Bilyaletdinov coached poorly

Also during the press conference, one of the reporters chastised Bilyaletdinov for not splitting up Ovechkin and Malkin. Another questioned the way Valeri Nichushkin was deployed. And, of course, the choice of goaltender for the Finland game will be questioned. Why Semyon Varlamov and not last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky? The first Finland goal that Varlamov allowed was stoppable. Not only that, it came within two minutes of Kovalchuk’s opener, making it an untimely, stoppable shot. Bilyaletdinov, by the way, said he wanted to remain coach, but admitted that the decision was not up to him.

3. The pressure was too much

Teemu Selanne said he could sense the Russians’ frustration growing as the game wore on: “We knew that they were tired.” Similarly, Sami Salo said he could “only imagine the kind of pressure” the hosts were under. Maybe it was the pressure that got to them, maybe it wasn’t. When a team presses, you often see individuals try to take over, instead of trusting that the system will pay off, and we probably saw a bit of that versus the Finns. Having said that, before the tournament started, Ken Holland had some cautionary words about assuming that pressure was a factor in a team’s performance: “Sometimes that it is the case. Sometimes…these are good teams.” Which brings us to this…

4. This may have been an upset, but Finland is no pushover

“I think the turning point for our tournament was the Canada game,” said Selanne. “In the first period, we were a little bit nervous. A lot of guys had never played against the best players in the world, but they saw and they realized they can compete against those guys. The whole body language changed. Now we believe we can beat anybody.” Finland also has Tuukka Rask, and that can’t be ignored. From Jim Craig to Dominik Hasek, we’ve seen goaltenders steal games in the Olympics before. Not to discount the timely offensive plays made by Selanne, Juhamatti Aaltonen, and Mikael Granlund, but the Russians outshot Finland, 38-22, meaning Rask was forced to make 37 saves. A good team that works hard and believes in itself can do big things with a great goalie.

5. The entire team just wasn’t good enough

Granted, most expected the Russians to get beyond the quarterfinals, but let’s not pretend they were the favorites here. We weren’t the only ones asking if expectations were too high, but for the record, we definitely did. This is a team that came into the Olympics with questionable depth and a questionable blue line. In the end, those two factors weren’t the main reasons they lost, but they didn’t help either. Just look how much Drew Doughty has boosted the Canadians’ offense from the back end. Only one Russian defenseman, Anton Belov, finished with a goal in Sochi.

OK, so that’s five theories. Feel free to add yours below, or disagree with mine. I’m off to watch the United States-Czech Republic game. Good hockey day today. (Unless you’re Russian.)

Once again, Finns ‘find a way’ to achieve Olympic success


Since NHLers began Olympic participation in 1998, only one country has medaled three times.

It’s not Canada, it’s not the U.S., it’s not Sweden and it’s not Russia.

It’s Finland.

On Wednesday, the Finns made a push for a fourth, defeating Russia 3-1 to set up a semifinal date with arch rivals Sweden. In typical fashion, Finland beat the Russians with strengths exhibited in previous Olympics — strong goaltending, smart play and tireless work ethic.

“Even though no one ever picks us to win medals we always seem to find a way to get there,” Tuukka Rask said after the game, per Sportsnet.

VIDEO: Highlights from Finland’s 3-1 win

Rask has been phenomenal over the last two contests, reminiscent of the performance Antero Niittymakki put up at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, when he backstopped the Finns to silver and won tournament MVP. Rask stopped 37 of 38 Russian shots on Wednesday, this coming after he made 25 saves in a 2-1 OT loss to Canada in the final group game.

“We gave it everything,” said a dismayed Pavel Datsyuk. “We can’t score today.”

Rask’s been a major part of Finland’s success, though hardly the only part. Mikael Granlund, the 21-year-old Minnesota center, has played extremely well and leads the team with five points. His effort against Russia — setting up Teemu Selanne’s game-winning goal, then scoring the insurance marker — was impressive, even more so considering Granlund was forced into a larger role after injuries befell the likes of Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula and Aleksander Barkov.

Granlund’s shown the type of resiliency that extended across the Finnish team. To steal some football parlance, the “next man up” philosophy rang true with the players — Jarko Immonen, one of the replacements for Koivu and Filppula, played nearly 15 minutes against the Russians on Wednesday, winning 55 percent of his draws. Petri Kontiola, a 29-year-old KHLer, won eight of nine faceoffs, registered an assist and played over 17 minutes, finishing plus-2.

It’s the kind of mentality assistant GM Jarmo Kekalainen described prior to the Games getting underway.

“It’ll be all about team. That’s our strength and we love to be the underdog,” he explained. “We’re going to bite everybody’s ankles and not let go — that’s the only way we’re going to be successful.”

Despite that colorful explanation and its history of Olympic success, few picked Finland to medal in Sochi, and even fewer gave the Finns a shot after injuries hit.

No problem, according to Selanne.

“You know that nobody ever believed that we could win, but it doesn’t matter,” he said, per TSN 1050. The experts are wrong many times.”

Dream dashed: Russia’s Olympic tournament over with loss to Finland


Just prior to the start of the Olympic tournament, Russia’s Alex Ovechkin said he had a “dream” of winning a gold medal on home soil.

On Wednesday, that dream died.

Finland beat Russia 3-1 in front of a partisan Russian crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, stifling the host country for most of the game while setting off a national nightmare in the process.

Russia came into this tournament with huge hopes riding on hockey gold. Ovechkin joked a gold medal would “only cost $50-billion” — well, we think he was joking — and his teammates also acknowledged the pressure to win it all. Yet their tournament will end with a quarterfinal loss, and Finland deserves full credit for ending it.

Juhamatti Aaltonen, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund all scored for Finland, with the three goals coming unanswered after Ilya Kovalchuk opened the scoring for the Russians midway through the first period. Granlund, 21, has stepped up for the Finns after injuries kept veteran forwards Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula from participating in the Olympics, and now has a team-high five points.

VIDEO: Highlights from Finland’s 3-1 win

If today’s game showed one thing, though, it’s the importance of quality goaltending in a single elimination tournament. Tuukka Rask was absolutely brilliant for the Finns, stopping 37 of 38 shots. Russia, meanwhile, got an uneven start from Semyon Varlamov — chased after allowing three goals — and was forced to insert Sergei Bobrovsky early in the second period.

The Russian goaltending situation will likely come under fire. Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov went back and forth between Varlamov and Bobrovsky all tournament long; conversely, Finland’s started Rask in three of its four games, including the last two against Canada and Russia.

This wasn’t just about goaltending, however. Finland played a smart, efficient game and outworked the Russians on a number of occasions. At no time was that more evident than on Selanne’s game-winning goal; Granlund chased down and stripped Slava Voynov for a loose puck before centering to Selanne, who broke his own record (set five days ago) as the oldest goalscorer in Olympic history.

As such, the Finns will now face Sweden in the semifinal for the chance to advance to Sunday’s gold medal game.

The Russians, meanwhile, will face a number of questions.