2014 Winter Olympics

USA vs. Finland: Preview and Prediction for 2014 Olympic Bronze-Medal Game

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

USA vs. Finland: Preview and Prediction for 2014 Olympic Bronze-Medal Game

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Nobody comes to the Olympics to play for the bronze medal; just appearing in this game has to be disappointing for both teams involved. The United States had been having a brilliant tournament prior to its loss in the semifinals; meanwhile, the Finns have overcome a series of injuries to be a force in the Games. 

    Now, both will compete for the consolation prize of third place.

    Still, it's a game that matters. Winning represents the chance to end the Olympics on a positive note, as well as the opportunity to win a medal for one's country, and both of these are important. For viewing information, projected lineups and our predicted outcome, read on. 

     

    Statistics are courtesy of IIHF.com and EliteProspects.com and current through Feb. 21 unless otherwise noted.

TV and Live Stream Info

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    The game starts Saturday at 10 a.m. ET and will be both streamed and broadcast live in the United States and Canada. In the United States, viewers can watch live on NBCSN, while in Canada, CBC will carry the contest live.

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

Top Storylines

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Does offense or defense win the day?

    Team USA, prior to its loss to Canada, was a nearly unstoppable juggernaut offensively. Team Finland, even during its loss to Sweden, was an incredibly stingy defensive opponent. The match between the two teams will likely play out along those established lines. 

     

    How will Teemu Selanne's Olympic career end?

    Selanne has had a stellar career, but at the age of 43, he is certainly playing in his final Olympic games. Twice he's led the tournament in goals, twice in points, three times he has won a medal (two silver, one bronze) and in 2006 he was named the best forward at the Games. He can't win gold, but a strong game would be a nice way to finish.

     

    Will both teams show up?

    It isn't easy for a team competing for gold to see that opportunity snatched away and then come back the next day to fight for bronze. Either or both teams may see effort levels flag in the aftermath of semifinal losses.

Team USA Projected Lineup

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Forwards

    • James van RiemsdykJoe Pavelski—Phil Kessel
    • Zach Parise—Ryan Kesler—Patrick Kane
    • Dustin Brown—David Backes—Ryan Callahan
    • Max Pacioretty—Paul Stastny—T.J. Oshie/Blake Wheeler

     

    Defense

    • Ryan Suter—Ryan McDonagh
    • Brooks Orpik—John Carlson
    • Cam Fowler—Kevin Shattenkirk
    • Justin Faulk

     

    Goaltending

    • Jonathan Quick
    • Ryan Miller

Team Finland Projected Lineup

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Forwards

    • Mikael GranlundJarkko ImmonenTeemu Selanne
    • Jussi Jokinen—Olli Jokinen—Tuomo Ruutu
    • Lauri Korpikoski—Petri Kontiola—Juhamatti Aaltonen
    • Leo Komarov—Jori Lehtera—Antti Pihlstrom

     

    Defense

    • Kimmo Timonen—Sami Vatanen
    • Olli Maatta—Sami Salo
    • Sami Lepisto—Juuso Hietanen
    • Lasse Kukkonen—Ossi Vaananen

     

    Goaltending

    • Kari Lehtonen
    • Antti Niemi

Key Skaters

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Mikael Granlund, Finland

    The ninth overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft, Granlund only arrived as a full-time NHL player this season. While he'd done some impressive work in Minnesota prior to making the trip to Sochi, it is his Olympic performance on Finland's top line that really announces him as a difference-maker. He leads the Finnish team in points (5), goals (3) and shots (20) heading into the bronze-medal game. 

     

    Patrick Kane, United States

    Kane has been dangerous offensively for the United States, contributing four assists and 14 shots. The first total puts him in a tie for the team lead; the latter places him behind only Phil Kessel. He has yet, however, to score a goal.

     

    Phil Kessel, United States

    Kessel has been Team USA's offensive leader, averaging more than four shots per game over the course of the tournament (the number he managed against Canada in the semifinals) and exactly one goal per game. He remains Team USA's go-to offensive creator. 

Goaltender Breakdown

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Kari Lehtonen appears to be the man between the pipes for Finland, though that is subject to change. Tuukka Rask, arguably the best goalie in the NHL today, missed Friday's game with illness, as reported by NHL.com's Shawn Roarke, and may or may not be ready in time for Saturday's game. If Rask is ready to go, he'll likely replace Lehtonen; if not, the Finns will have to settle for the very strong Dallas Stars No. 1 goalie. 

    At the other end of the rink, Jonathan Quick is the probable American starter; he was quite good in Team USA's loss to Canada and has been excellent throughout the tournament. The Canadian team only managed to get one goal past him. The Finns will have their hands full either matching or bettering that number. 

USA Will Win If Its Offensive Game Can Rebound from the Semifinals Loss

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    In its first four games of the tournament, Team USA averaged five goals per contest and was never held to fewer than three. In its fifth game, the United States ran into Carey Price and the rock-solid Canadian defense and couldn't score even once. 

    Finland isn't as strong a team as Canada, but unlike most of America's opponents in this tournament, it plays an extremely stingy defensive game. 

    Whether or not the Americans win bronze will likely be determined by their ability to penetrate the Finnish defense. 

Finland Will Win If It Can Outwork the United States

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    A series of devastating injuries has left Finland short of its customary offensive firepower. Despite that, the team has been good enough to beat Russia and take the Swedes and Canadians to the limit. How has it done it? Through commitment to a defensive scheme and a refusal to be outworked anywhere on the ice. 

    Tenacity and a willingness to sacrifice the body to make a play are as much virtues in Finnish hockey as they are in North America, and the small, speedy Finnish team has demonstrated them in spades. Finland needs to maintain that work ethic for one more game. 

Prediction

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Both of these teams would be worthy recipients of the bronze medal; either would have been a fine participant in a contest for gold. 

    One of them, unfortunately, is going to go home empty-handed. 

    It says here that Team USA's formidable talent and Finland's injuries will be enough to give the United States the win. The Americans won't be able to run away with the score (as they did in the 2010 semifinals), but they should be able to attain victory.

    Predicted score: United States 3, Finland 1. 

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