2010 Winter Olympics: Team USA Faces a Dangerous Opponent in Finland
This is where the real games begin.
No more Norway.
No more Swiss.
No more three freebie goals courtesy of Martin Brodeur miscues.
Make no mistake, the USA faces a very tough test against Finland on Friday.
Finland were narrow runners-up in both the last Olympics and the last World Cup of Hockey.
Sweden, the team that defeated Finland in the last Olympics and the only team to defeat them so far in this Olympics, is out.
The Finns don't usually give up goals easily, and are fresh off shutting out a high-powered Czech attack.
And they can score. Teemu Selanne, the Koivu brothers, Olli Jokinen and Niklas Hagman are just a few of their offensive threats.
Most importantly, almost from top to bottom of their roster, their players play a two-way game, and they play as a team, as one cohesive unit.
That's what has made Finland so dangerous in the last three major tournaments, including this one.
No doubt, Team USA coach Ron Wilson will have studied Sweden's victory over the Finns and figured out any tricks to beating the Finns that were in the Swedish playbook.
But even if he has, Team USA's players will need to be on top of their game, and Ryan Miller will need to be every bit as strong as he has been so far in the tournament, if the stars and stripes are to advance to the gold medal game.
USA definitely has a strong chance to win. But the Finns have a chance too.
As an American, I'm somewhat nervous heading into this game.
Outside of Canada, Finland was the team I most feared having to play.
Here's hoping Miller stands tall, and Kiprusoff has an off-night. He has had his fair share of those lately: more than backup Nicklas Backstrom, who I'm very glad won't be the starter.
Here's hoping the American skaters play with the same relentlessness they did against Switzerland, and the same opportunistic nose for the net they did against Canada.
If they do, Team USA may survive it's most serious threat to date, and live to play for gold come Sunday.
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