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USA vs. Finland: Line-by-Line Breakdown for 2014 Olympic Bronze-Medal Game

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

USA vs. Finland: Line-by-Line Breakdown for 2014 Olympic Bronze-Medal Game

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The bronze-medal game is set: Team USA against Finland. Both will have to put aside disappointment after losses to archrivals and play Saturday for a medal. 

    Team USA was frustrated by Canadian checking, and Finland couldn't find a way to tie their game on a late power play.

    It's the bronze-medal game. Here's a line-by-line look at both teams, along with the pairing and goaltending matchups.

First Line

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    LW Zach Parise, C Ryan Kesler, RW Patrick Kane

    Ryan Kesler, Zach Parise and Patrick Kane have been together since the beginning of the tournament, with Dustin Brown jumping in from time to time. Parise had an impact Friday, ending the Canada game with eight shots. USA coach Dan Bylsma rode this line heavily in the semifinal, with all three playing more than 20 minutes. They'll get plenty of playing time against Finland. 

     

    LW Mikael Granlund, C Jarkko Immonen, RW Teemu Selanne

    Mikael Granlund is the big story for Finland at the Olympics. He leads Suomi in points and played more than any other Finn in Friday's semifinal against Sweden. Teemu Selanne is having a strong Olympics, especially against Slovenia. Jarkko Immonen was exposed in the faceoff circle (3-of-8) Friday.

     

    Advantage: USA

    Team USA has so much firepower at the top of its lineup that it trumps the Finns easily. Kane drives the results on this line and should be a major factor in the bronze-medal game. 

Second Line

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    LW James van Riemsdyk, C Joe Pavelski, RW Phil Kessel 

    This line is led by Phil Kessel, who has been splendid throughout the tournament. He'll be dangerous in the bronze-medal game. Joe Pavelski centered the line effectively on Friday, and it managed seven shots against Canada. A quality performance Saturday is likely for this line.

     

    LW Tuomo Ruutu, C Olli Jokinen, RW Jussi Jokinen

    Olli Jokinen played well Friday, scoring for Finland and skating miles. He also leads his team in even-strength points. The entire line has been an effective unit during the Olympics.

     

    Advantage: USA

    As with the first line, Team USA has too much offensive punch for the Finnish trio.

Third Line

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    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    LW Dustin Brown, C David Backes, RW Ryan Callahan

    Dustin Brown struggled on this line, and Dan Bylsma eventually elevated Max Pacioretty midgame. David Backes has had an excellent Olympics. Ryan Callahan had another splendid game shot-blocking and on the penalty kill against Canada. 

     

    LW Lauri Korpikoski, C Petri Kontiola, RW Juhamatti Aaltonen

    Lauri Korpikoski and Petri Kontiola have been quality for the entire tournament. Juhamatti Aaltonen scored a huge goal against the Russians this week, but left the game in the third period. Larry Page from the Associated Press tells us the injury is unknown at this time. 

     

    Advantage: USA

    The range of skills among the Team USA trio is well beyond the Finns. Backes is the best offensive player in the group.

     

Extra Forwards

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    LW Max Pacioretty, C Paul Stastny, RW T.J. Oshie, RW Blake Wheeler

    Team USA has outstanding depth. Max Pacioretty played more as the semifinal game wore on, Paul Stastny and T.J. Oshie also took regular turns. Dan Bylsma turned to Blake Wheeler late in an attempt to put a charge into the lineup. Any of these players could break out against Finland. 

     

    LW Leo Komarov, C Jori Lehtera, RW Antti Pihlstrom, RW Sakari Salminen

    Leo Komarov is a buzzsaw and is upsetting opponents in every game with his gritty play. Jori Lehtera is a strong faceoff man and is playing more as the tournament rolls along.  

     

    Advantage: USA

    Team USA is clearly superior in this area.

First Pairing

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    Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    LD Ryan Suter, RD Ryan McDonagh

    Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh emerged as the workhorse pairing for Team USA. Each defenseman managed their game very well during the Olympics and will be major players during the bronze-medal game.

     

    LD Kimmo Timonen, RD Sami Vatanen

    Sami Vatanen has been outstanding at the Sochi Olympics. He's playing top-pairing minutes and leading Finnish defensemen in minutes and points. Kimmo Timonen is a steady veteran Finland counts on to make the right play.

     

    Advantage: USA

    The difference comes down to mobility and talent. Suter is one of the best defensemen in the game and in his prime. McDonagh is younger, but has a tremendous skill set.

Second Pairing

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    Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    LD Cam Fowler, RD Kevin Shattenkirk

    This young pairing impressed during the Olympics and moved up the depth chart. Kevin Shattenkirk is an emerging talent with two-way skills, and Cam Fowler's creativity with the puck is valuable. They'll be a factor against Finland. 

     

    LD Olli Maatta, RD Sami Salo

    The concern with Olli Maatta was inexperience, and he's passed the test with flying colors. Maatta leads Finnish defensemen in even-strength points. Sami Salo is healthy and effective, but Finland didn't get the puck to him enough on the power play. His shot from the point is devastating.   

     

    Advantage: Finland

    A very small gap between the two countries, but Finland gets the edge due to Maatta's emergence as a bona fide defender.

Depth Defensemen

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    LD Paul Martin, LD Brooks Orpik, RD John Carlson, RD Justin Faulk

    Team USA has been relying on young John Carlson more as the Olympics wears on. He played on the third pairing with Brooks Orpik Friday, and it was the veteran Orpik who was more exposed. Paul Martin did not play against the Canada, so Justin Faulk drew in for his first action. Martin missed the game with a hand injury, as ESPN's Scott Burnside explains in this report.

     

    LD Sami Lepisto, RD Juuso Hietanen, LD Ossi Vaananen, L Lasse Kukkonen

    Finland dressed eight defensemen for every game, and all played significant minutes. They lack a Karlsson-style game-breaker, but are very deep with reliable blueliners. 

     

    Advantage: USA

    Carlson used his mobility to good advantage, and when Martin went down with a hand injury the Americans replaced him swiftly.

Goaltenders

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    Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    Starter Jonathan Quick, Backup Ryan Miller

    Team USA has outstanding goaltending, and Jonathan Quick is playing well in Sochi. There is no reason to replace him, meaning Ryan Miller sits. If Team USA calls on him, Miller should be equal to the task. 

     

    Starter Tuukka Rask, Backups Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi

    Rask is the best goaltender, but missed the Friday game because of the flu. Lehtonen and Niemi are both quality goalies, and their depth in goal may be the best at the Olympics.

     

    Advantage: Finland

    The gold standard for world goaltending is Finland, and Rask is his country's best goaltender.

Summary

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    Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    There are four nations considered elite in international hockey, and Finland isn't one of them. With the Russians already eliminated, Team USA should dominate the bronze-medal game.

    • First Line: USA
    • Second Line: USA
    • Third Line: USA
    • Depth Forwards: USA
    • First Pair: USA
    • Second Pair: Finland
    • Depth Defensemen: USA
    • Goalies: Finland

    If Tuukka Rask steals this game, Finland wins bronze. Any other script written has Team USA winning the bronze medal.

     

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