After the U.S. lost to Canada by a score of 1-0, and Finland lost to Sweden by a score of 2-1, the two teams will face each other in the bronze medal game on the 15th day of the 2014 Olympics:
It's not the gold medal game, but it is still important and should be a good game. Below is the TV and live stream information for the game. Below that we'll analyze the game a bit.
|Feb. 22||USA vs. Finland||10 a.m.||NBC Sports Network|
The game is available for live streaming at NBCOlympics.com.
The U.S. dominated the beginning of the tournament, but they couldn't find a way to score against Canada's tight defense. It was, as one can expect, a disappointing performance, as Dan Bylsma echoed to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Bylsma: 'We all feel disappointment in this. But that's got to be put behind us real quick. We still have a lot to play for.'— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) February 21, 2014
Finland's trip to the bronze medal match is a bit of a surprise, since they weren't expected to get past Russia in the quarterfinals. But Finland is plucky and disciplined. They will be a tough play for America.
“It's very disappointing," Pittsburgh Penguins winger and two-time Finnish Olympian Jussi Jokinen said to Kovacevic. “These are the chances you don't get too often. It's four more years, and we don't know if NHL players will be out there after these Olympics. It's a tough pill to swallow.”
So what can we expect in this game?
Finland will probably watch the tape of the Canadian-U.S. game, because Canada was the first team to slow down the Americans. They did it by pressuring the Americans non-stop. They had an excellent forecheck, collapsed in their zone and were quite physical. The Americans didn't know how to respond, as Chris Peters of The United States of Hockey noted:
Team USA's puck management (when they have it) has been pretty dreadful. Not dealing with pressure well.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) February 21, 2014
That's a similar style to what Finland plays, and they probably play it better than the Canadians. Finland's goalies have stopped 92 percent of the shots they've faced.
On the other hand, Finland really struggles to score. They've scored on just 12 percent of their shots, and that's including the 14 goals they scored against the woeful Austrian and Norwegian teams. Against quality opponents—Sweden, Canada and Russia—Finland scored just five goals on 63 shots, or just under eight percent.
So unless the Americans—in less than 24 hours—find a way to adjust to Finland's signature style, then this will be a low scoring game that will come down to the goalies.
Jonathan Quick really was fantastic against Canada, stopping 36 shots. Kari Lehtonen was splendid in relief of Tuukka Rask, stopping 23 shots.
Who Will Win?
For the Americans to win, it's simple—they have to attack Finland's defense, pepper as many shots as possible on net and play solid defense. Jonathan Quick won't have to be fantastic in this game, since Finland struggles to score.
But a grind-it-out, defensive-minded game favors Finland, who will try to take away as many chances as possible. Finland's more comfortable in a 1-1 game, anyways.
Can stars like Patrick Kane and Zach Parise show up? It would certainly help. The two have just one goal between them. The U.S. can't rely on one offensive line—Joe Pavelski centering Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk—to score. The fourth line of Paul Stastny, T.J. Oshie and Max Pacioretty, which was so dominant in the first game against Slovakia, has done nothing since.
Finland will rely on Olli Jokinen and Teemu Selanne for offense, but they know that there's not much there. This team got here on defense and will try to win it on defense.
It may be a bronze medal game, and it's not what either team had in mind. But as Patrick Kane told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune:
USA's Patrick Kane on playing for the bronze medal: "It’s better than nothing." #Blackhawks— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) February 21, 2014
There's a lot on the line for this game, and you can bet that every player will be putting everything on the line. It should be a fantastic game.