So much for Russia’s emphatic win against Norway. The Russians barely hung on to a 4-0 win (scored two late goals to seal it) in a very nervous performance. This team plays like they’ve got the weight of the world on their shoulders. That might be a recipe for disaster against Finland.
Russia Can Win Because…
Finland has a bunch of injuries. We’re talking about a team that was already missing its top three centers in Mikko Koivu, Saku Koivu and Valtteri Filppula, and now lost Aleksander Barkov. That’ll help the uber-talented Russians.
Sure, they haven’t met expectations so far with three nail-biting wins against Slovenia, Slovakia and Norway, but the truth is that they’re just winning differently than we’re used to seeing. They’re only loss so far was a 3-2 shootout loss to Team USA – is that anything to be ashamed of?
If anything, the Russians should be thrilled with their defense and goaltending. They’ve allowed just four goals in four games, including a pair of shutouts. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been as strong as anyone between the pipes and if the Russians can get their offense in gear, they’ll get by Finland.
Finland Can Win Because….
The Russians have too much pressure on them. $50 billion was spent on these Olympics and one of the main expectations was that the Russians would win the gold medal in men’s hockey. So far, the Russians haven’t looked quite like gold medal contenders as they had to play their way into the quarter-finals and haven’t had many comfortable, easy wins. More importantly, that lethal offense with the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin has looked fairly listless – not lethal.
Finland boasts one of the best goaltenders in the tournament in Tuukka Rask and one of the best defensive setups. They’ll be happy to take the conservative approach, keep this game low scoring, frustrate the Russians and let the pressure mount on them. That’s the perfect situation for a rested Finland team.
Outlook & Pick
Russia has been heavily criticized so far but I think they’re well-suited for this type of game. They’ve already played four tight games and that’s what this one is going to be: a low-scoring, one-goal game. Although Finland is lauded for their defense and goaltending, Russia has actually allowed fewer goals in this tournament while playing more games. They also have the better offensive weapons and I think that’s what eventually gets them over the hump.
Pick: Russia at Pinnacle