The Switzerland vs Finland game was probably the first real test for the Finnish team. For the past couple of years the Swiss have shown its potential. Long gone are the days when David Aebischer had to stand on his head and make something like 60 saves per game and still allow several goals.
I missed the first period due to being stuck in traffic and so forth, but judging from the highlights, the Swiss did control the first period, despite the Finns getting on the board on the power play. Judging by the stats, the Swiss had more shots on goal and were more aggressive on the hitting front.
From the second period Finland were struggling with the Swiss teams’ aggressive fore check. The Finnish game relies on accurate passing and what the Finnish media calls a slow breakout (if any Finns know the real term for the style, please let me know as my Finnish to English hockey vocab is rusty). The breakout style allows the Finns to play the puck control game that took the team to the World Championship last year. However, with the Swiss sending sometimes up to three fore checkers to the Finnish defensive zone, it caused the Finnish defence a lot of trouble at times.
The aggressive fore check lead to some turnovers which could’ve lead to goals, if not for Kari Lehtonen in the Finnish net.
On the whole the power play I think still takes a lot of work from the Finns. Sure it converted twice during the game but I have seriously lost count on the opportunities the Finns had in the game and have had throughout the tournament. One thing that I think is missing from the Finnish top line is a strong body presence in front of the goal. Last season there was Tuomo Ruutu, who is out of this years tournament after the birth of his first child. This year, the top line doesn’t have that kind of rough and tumble player in it. The line of Filppula – Koivu – Jokinen is showing some signs of waking up, though at times Jussi Jokinen seems completely lost on the ice.
When I was watching the Finns play, there is a lot of good work and cycling taking place in the corners, but for some reason I can’t help but think that the distance from the corner to the net is too big. If the rink was a little bit smaller then it would be ideal. Right now I don’t think the Finns are generating enough traffic on the net which would lead to scoring chances on the rebounds and cause general nuisance at the opponents net. The only line I see capable of doing it, is the Finnish 3rd line of Jesse Joensuu – Niko Kapanen – Leo Komarov. Komarov showed his strong side today, by showeling home an important 2-1 goal from in traffic.
The good thing to take away from the game is that Finland scored more than one goal. I would say that this was the first real test on a hockey level that the Finns had to play. At times, yes, it seemed like the Finns were struggling in their own end and a part from a few defensive lapses, the defensive crops seems capable… so far…
The Swiss however, could’ve won the game if it stuck to its playing style. In the 3rd period it seemed like the Swiss had changed their fore check from the aggressive one to a more anticipating one, which played to the Finnish teams’ hands due to it giving them the space they needed for their breakout.
The other thing that worked against the Swiss was the refereeing. There were some unbelievable calls against the Swiss, which hindered their offensive opportunities, even if the team did get a shorthanded breakaway in the third period.
Valtteri Filppula with his two goals on the night was Finland’s best player for the night. Mikael Granlund played an energetic game, as did the entire third line, which has been Finland’s best line throughout the tournament so far. The other bright spark of the night was Jarkko Immonen with his two goals, even if his line struggled the most in the defensive zone.
For Finland the best thing to have happen from the Switzerland game would’ve been to play either Canada or USA. However, the next game against France should be an easier game for the team and an opportunity to get ready for the big games against Canada and USA.
The attendance tonight was 12,448, which is getting closer to the maximum capacity of the Arena.