Finland has scored 14 goals in two games, but Finnish coach Erkka Westerlund wants to make one thing very clear: They still face an uphill battle against Canada on Sunday.
That’s the role the Finnish want to be portrayed in and they’ve been pushing on their team since before the tournament started.
“It’ll be all about team. That’s our strength and we love to be the underdog,” assistant GM Jarmo Kekalainen said last week. “We’re going to bite everybody’s ankles and not let go — that’s the only way we’re going to be successful.”
And it’s an easy sell because it also happens to be true. While they have managed to win cleanly against two opponents that weren’t highly regarded going into the Olympics, there’s no question that Canada is the far better team on paper.
The only area where the Finnish were supposed to be at par with the Canadians was in goaltending and that’s oddly enough been Finland’s only blemish so far, courtesy of a shaky performance by Tuukka Rask in the opener.
It doesn’t help matters that Finland might have lost forward Aleksander Barkov to a lower-body injury on Friday. The Finnish team is already missing Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula.
At the same time, especially in a short tournament, the team with the most skill isn’t always the victor and while Finland beating Canada would be an upset, it wouldn’t be a shock. After all, even if Finland is theoretically below Canada, they’re still one of the top hockey nations and a legitimate contender. The gap between them exists, but we’re talking about hills instead of mountains.