Finland’s start to the World Championships has been somewhat slow. The team has scored only two goals across 120minutes of play and luckily have not given up a goal as yet. I’m kinda happy that we haven’t allowed a goal as yet, as I said prior to the games starting that Finland won’t have any problem on the goal tending department. I won’t go into an in depth analysis of the playing style or the timing of the passes, because this post would probably be about 5,000 words long and my internet stream cut out so much that I gave up taking indepth notes half way through. I
Speaking of the stream though, it was frustrating to have it cut out with about 10 minutes left in the game. I got it back with two minutes to go and then lost it again, only to have it back when Jukka Jalonen was shaking hands with his assistant coaches after winning the game. The YouTube comments that run next to the IIHF Video stream were understandably filled with rage when the image cut out.
Finland has now had numerous power play opportunities in the two games it has played but has not mustered anything on them. The power play, as far as I can see it, is about nifty puck movement but there is not enough shots coming in on goal and the players are not quick enough to react to second chances on the rebounds. Somehow I feel that the guys are trying too much instead of keeping it simple. Whether it is the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd that’s getting to them or the 24/7 TV access to training and whatnot that is disturbing the flow of the game, but I have a feeling that there is something not quite clicking with the team yet.
If we look back to last year, Finland did have a slow start to the gamest then as well, but at least the team was scoring more goals in the first couple of games. I don’t know if the puck control game, or “Our Game” thesis that Jukka Jalonen is coaching with is causing the lack of scoring. Where I think that the style of play suits Finland from the point of view that the team is controlling the puck and flow of the game there is always that little bit that makes me think that they should be more direct and drive hard to the net.
On many of the offensive rushes that the Finns have had are like a throwback to Juha-Matti Aaltonen’s playing style. Drive hard from the boards and go behind the net. The Finns are trying to use Gretzky’s office as a place to create offence and there’s one player who can do that on the team and it is young Granlund. He dished out a nifty pass to Pesonen from behind the net. Pesonen fluffed the first shot but made good by getting his backhand shot to go top shelf.
Whatever it is, the team has to start scoring and playing a more up-tempo game as now it looks more like the players are going at walking pace on the ice. The opponents will only get harder as we are yet to play USA or the party-hard Canada team. Finland has to improve drastically for those games if it is to have any kind of hope for a repeat of its world championship. You simply do not win championships by scoring one goal per game. That is unless you are a soccer team and you score one goal and then go into a turtle defence mode. But that’s not the way hockey is supposed to be played like.
The goalies have both been solid. Vehanen dropped the puck a bit more than Lehtonen, but a shutout is a shutout. It poses an interesting problem for the Finnish coaching staff as to who to play more in the games, with both goalies being in good form and with Karri Ramo waiting on the wings.
I would expect that Jalonen realises the fact that he can’t have his team score only one goal per game and expect to go to the finals. He definitely needs to get more out of the power play and from Jussi Jokinen, who has been terrible in the first two games. Jalonen needs to also work on some issues that the Finns have on normal 5on5 game.
Good thing is, we have not (yet) seen anyone talk about the old Finnish adage of “Scoring is difficult” or “we had this many scoring chances in the game” it’s not the chances that win you the game, it’s the goals that you actually score.