Sweden vs. Finland: Preview and Prediction for 2014 Olympic Hockey Game

Dave LozoNHL National Lead WriterFebruary 19, 2014

Sweden vs. Finland: Preview and Prediction for 2014 Olympic Hockey Game

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    The battle for Nordic supremacy and a trip to the gold-medal game will take place between rivals Sweden and Finland on Friday after each won their quarterfinal matchups on Wednesday.

    Sweden pulled away in the third period for a 5-0 win against Slovenia while Finland erased an early deficit to get past host Russia 3-1.

    The most recent meeting between Sweden and Finland took place in group play during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Loui Eriksson scored twice, and Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves in a 3-0 victory for Sweden.

    The Swedes would go on to lose in the quarterfinals to Slovakia; Finland won a bronze medal with a win against the Slovaks.

    In 2006, Sweden defeated Finland in the gold-medal game 3-2 as Lundqvist made 25 saves.

    Will it be another Swedish win, or will the Finns have the answer this time? Check out this preview and prediction for answers to all your pressing questions. 

TV and Live Stream Info

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    This game will get under way on Friday at 6:30 a.m. ET and can be seen on NBCSN in the United States and TSN in Canada. The game will be streamed in both the United States and Canada.

    For live Internet streams, go to NBCOlympics.com in the U.S. and Olympics.CBC.ca in Canada.

Top Storylines

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Which top goaltender will rise to the occasion?

    Henrik Lundqvist of Sweden and Tuukka Rask of Finland are two of the top goaltenders in the world. This game will likely come down to a battle between Lundqvist and Rask. One bad goal allowed could be the difference between winning and losing.

     

    Which team will overcome its major injuries?

    The Finns are without Aleksander Barkov, Valtteri Filppula and Mikko Koivu. The Swedes are without Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen. Neither team has suffered a 60-minute loss in the tournament despite all the ailments, but that's very likely to change Friday.

     

    How will Finland's defense handle Sweden's attack?

    Finland's top-four on defense feature two outstanding young players in Olli Maatta and Sami Vatanen paired with declining veterans in Kimmo Timonen and Sami Salo. It's either a mix of youth and veteran savvy or inexperience and old legs, depending on your perspective. They've been great as a group at the Olympics, but Sweden will provide a stern test.

Sweden Projected Lineup

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Forwards

    • Daniel Sedin—Nicklas Backstrom—Loui Eriksson

    • Alexander Steen—Patrik Berglund—Daniel Alfredsson

    • Gabriel Landeskog—Marcus Johansson—Jakob Silfverberg

    • Jimmie Ericsson—Marcus Kruger—Carl Hagelin/Gustav Nyquist

    Defensemen

    • Alexander Edler—Erik Karlsson

    • Jonathan Ericsson—Niklas Kronwall

    • Niklas Hjalmarsson—Johnny Oduya

    Extra: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

    Goaltenders

    • Henrik Lundqvist

    • Jhonas Enroth

    Scratches: Henrik Tallinder, Jonas Gustavsson

Finland Projected Lineup

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Forwards

    • Mikael Granlund—Jarkko Immonen—Teemu Selanne

    • Tuomo Ruutu—Olli Jokinen—Jussi Jokinen

    • Lauri Korpikoski—Petri Kontiola—Juhamatti Aaltonen

    • Antti Pihlstrom—Jori Lehtera—Leo Komarov

    Defensemen

    • Kimmo Timonen— Sami Vatanen

    • Olli Maata—Sami Salo

    • Sami Lepisto—Juuso Hietanen

    • Ossi Vaananen—Lasse Kukkonen

    Goaltenders

    • Tuukka Rask

    • Kari Lehtonen

    Scratches: Aleksander Barkov, Sakari Salminen, Antti Niemi

Key Skaters

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Nicklas Backstrom, Sweden

    With centers Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin out of the lineup, it's up to Backstrom to produce as the top-line center. He will need to generate a lot of chances against a Finnish squad that has been solid defensively throughout the tournament and is now finding its offense.

     

    Olli Maatta, Finland

    There's no question that the Finns are a veteran-laden club, but 19-year-old defenseman Olli Maatta has been leaned upon heavily and been strong all tournament. No one played more against Russia (19:54) than Maatta, and he'll likely have a big workload against Sweden.

     

    Mikael Granlund, Finland

    The 21-year-old forward leads Finland in goals (3) and points (5) in the tournament and scored an insurance goal against Russia. His speed will be a test for the Sweden defense.

Goaltender Breakdown

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    Bruce Bennett/Associated Press

    Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden

    He shut down the Czechs and blanked the Swiss before allowing three goals to Latvia of all teams in the final game of group play. He was mostly untested but solid in the shutout win against Slovenia and has had a very good tournament.

    But, he will be tested for the first time at the Sochi Olympics when the Finns take the ice. He will need to elevate his game to get Sweden to the gold-medal game.

     

    Tuukka Rask, Finland

    Rask was outstanding against Russia, and this could be the best goaltending matchup of the tournament. He made 37 saves to eliminate the Russians in the quarterfinals, and he may need to be that good again to eliminate the top-seeded Swedes.

Sweden Will Win If They Can Break Down the Finnish Defense

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Finns are a stout defensive team with a great goaltender. The Swedes aren't the same offensive juggernaut without Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen, so finding ways to score goals will take on added importance for some players.

    If Finland puts the clamps on the Swedes, they will be in trouble. Finland isn't loaded with weapons either, so three goals should be plenty to get Sweden to the gold-medal game.

Finland Will Win If They Minimize Mistakes

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Finland is an opportunistic team that relies on goaltending, but they will need to avoid major breakdowns defensively. Tuukka Rask is one of the best goaltenders in the world, but they can't continually rely on him to be otherworldly like he was against Russia.

    If Finland can limit breakdowns that lead to great scoring chances, they can win this game.

Prediction

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Both teams are at less than 100 percent because of injuries, and both teams possess elite goaltenders. But Sweden has a few more offensive weapons and are deeper defensively, and that should make the difference in this contest.

     

    Predicted score: Sweden 3, Finland 1