Olympic Hockey Semi-Final Preview: Finland vs Sweden


Just like the Canada- USA tilt, the other semi-final also features two long-time, bitter rivals that are battling to reach the Gold Medal game.


Friday, Feb 21;  7:00 AM EST


Here is how the teams match up:

GOALTENDING:  With Henrik Lundqist and Tuukka Rask, there is two of the top goaltenders in the world.  Lundqvist has played every minute for the Swedes, allowing 5 goals in 4 games.  Rask had a shaky start, allowing 4 goals to Austria in the opener, but has been rock solid in an overtime loss to Canada and the quarterfinal win over Russia.


Karlsson holds the key to a Swedish victory PHOTO CREDIT: USA Today Sports

DEFENSE:  Erik Karlsson has been the best defenseman in the tournament, and with due respect to Phil Kessel, probably the best player.  He, along with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Kronwall have been great, while the Finns rely on young Olli Maatta along with veterans Kimmo Timonen and Sami Salo.


FORWARDS:  Given the injuries up the middle for both teams, it is pretty amazing that they have advanced this far.  Names like Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg, Mikko Koivu and Aleksander Barkov are all out of their respective lineups.  But that leaves the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Daniel Sedin, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund on opposing sides.  The veteran presence and young guns are like mirror images.  The Finns have a little more grit, the Swedes a little more talent.


Does Selanne have another International magic moment left in him? PHOTO CREDIT: USA Today Sports

SPECIAL TEAMS:  This could be where the game is won or lost, led by Karlsson, the Swedes have the best power play in the tournament, clicking at over 35%, while the Finns have the lowest ranked PK, with just over 62%.  Even in a short tournament, that is pretty low.  The matchup the other way is pretty even as the Finns have the 5th ranked PP, the Swedes the 5th ranked PK.


PREDICTION: Finland has to play an in-your-face game to win, which could also mean penalties depending on the officiating.  If they get a run of penalties Karlsson and company will make them pay.  Sweden will play for gold.