Finland is the seventh of an eight-part series previewing the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Other team previews can be found here: Russia | Canada | USA | Sweden | Czech Republic | Slovakia | Mexico (Satire)
This Finnish national side is unlike any other team in the field because it wants to play defense first. They are confident they can mix it up with any of the powerhouse nations and win games with goaltending.
Silver medalists from Turin, the Blue Machine will look to improve and go one step further to win the Gold in 2010.
Teemu Selanne still remains the figure of Finnish hockey even after nearly two decades in the program. He will be joined by some rising stars this year. Finland fields a squad currently ranked fourth overall and their team chemistry may be one of the best.
C Olli Jokinen, Phoenix Coyotes
LW Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
RW Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks
C Saku Koivu, Montreal Canadiens
LW Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina Hurricanes
RW Jere Lehtinen, Dallas Stars
C Valtteri Filppula, Detroit Red Wings
LW Niklas Hagman, Toronto Maple Leafs
RW Antti Miettinen, Minnesota Wild
C Niko Kapanen, Ak Bars Kazan
LW Jarkko Ruutu, Ottawa Senators
RW Antti Pihlstrom, Nashville Predators
As a normal Finnish roster would look like, no major scoring threats except national hero Teemu Selanne. These forwards will grind and force their way through any line in the Olympics and will have to.
The top line is by far the most talented. Olli Jokinen and Selanne are ever-dangerous scoring threats, and Mikko Koivu is a fast rising star for Minnesota.
Tuomo Ruutu will bring youth to a second line that is full of experience. Jere Lehtinen will most likely be playing in his last Olympic games and Saku Koivu is also getting up in age.
The third line will draw some interest. Valtteri Filppula has risen out of oblivion in the past two seasons with the Red Wings and Hagman, although he has been in the NHL since 2001, experience his best year ever in 2007-08.
The final line will be utilized in several reasons because of their toughness. Antti Pihlstrom may actually play his way onto a higher line by 2010 due to his potential.
Jussi Jokinen, Tampa Bay Lightning; Ville Leino, Detroit Red Wings; Janne Pesonen, Pittsburgh Penguins; Lauri Korpikoski, New York Rangers
LD Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers
RD Sami Salo, Vancouver Canucks
LD Joni Pitkanen, Carolina Hurricanes
RD Teppo Numminen, Buffalo Sabres
LD Ossi Vaananen, Philadelphia Flyers
RD Lasse Kukkonen, Philadelphia Flyers
Not a particularly offensive unit, they still get the job done. Timonen is the best of the bunch, but that isn't saying a whole lot. He will be paired with Sami Salo, as long as Salo is healthy for the games.
Pitkanen is probably the most offensive minded of the group. He will start on the power play alongside Timonen and most likely be the only blueliner to jump in on offense. Numminen on the other hand is a very defensive minded player.
A duo of Flyers make up the third pairing. Both are committed to defense and could see more playing time than people expect.
Toni Lydman, Buffalo Sabres; Sami Lepisto, Washington Capitals; Ville Koistinen, Nashville Predators
G Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild
G Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames
This is another goaltending race that is very much up for grabs. Kiprusoff has been the national goalie for several years now, but Backstrom's rising play and Kiprusoff's drop in play have lead to a changing of the guard. Backstrom is the younger of the two and has played better every year, but Kiprusoff will not be so quick to give up his starting job.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators; Kari Lehtonen, Atlanta Thrashers
No medal. They will miss the medal round.