The Finns are like friggin’ acupuncture. The just seem to have this uncanny ability to find exactly where to pressure and when. They’re patient, they’re methodical…they just play within themselves until it’s time to strike, then they come out of their shell. They are, for lack of a more clever way to explain them, infuriating. They turn opponents into Teddy KGB: “Nyet! Nyet! No More! No! Not tonight! This son of b***h, all night he, “Check. Check. Check.” He trap me!”
The most remarkable thing to come from Finland’s 5-0 drubbing of the US squad is the press it’s generated for Bobby Ryan. On the heels of two straight shutouts his name is the most prominent thing in hockey writing after Teemu Selanne. Yes, he should’ve been on the team (same goes for Keith Yandle), but that US team wasn’t exactly a roster decision away from being gold medalists.
That said, the US team is going to be undersold in the wake of the thorough thrashing they took on Saturday, but I don’t think the round-robin games were just flukes. I think that was a legitimately powerful offensive hockey team that was dead focused on one thing: beating Canada. They lost, and the game today was a poor indicator of their true talent. It’s not that they “didn’t try” in Saturday’s game, but after the heartbreaking loss they just couldn’t get up for Finland. They played in autopilot. The Finns were likely disappointed heading into the game too, but the bronze really did seem to mean more to them.
It’s tough to quantify what Teemu Selanne means to Finnish hockey (to hockey in general, really). He’s played in six Olympics (his linemate Mikael Granlund was born after his second Games), and he’s left with four medals. He’s the Olympics all-time leading scorer by seven (24 goals, 43 points in 36 games), he’s the oldest player to ever score in Olympic hockey (he turns 44 in July), and the first of his two today turned out to be the bronze medal-winner. The fact that he’s done so much and seen even more makes his knowledge invaluable, and his words resonate. I took this picture before the game of Teemu talking to his Finnish teammates. He’s the only guy who spoke, and they huddled up waiting for him. He’s a coach in gear at this point.
Timonen’s been at like 100 Olympics too. He’s less thirsty to soak up Teemu’s words, it appears.
I thought it was interesting that the CBC noted the Americans crappy warmup. Jim Hughson: “The US had an awful warmup, didn’t they?” That generally means the passing was sloppy, guys were missing the net, and there was no energy out there. It also usually means approximately eff-all, the equivalent of going to the driving range and striping the ball perfectly 100 straight times. As in, zero indication if you’re going to play great or terribly. But I could see today’s messy start being an indicator based on what I mentioned in point two – the game didn’t mean much to them, and they didn’t prepare like they normally would.
I tweeted after the game that I couldn’t call up a single American player who played well after that loss. Blake Wheeler definitely seemed a little more spirited than others, but given that he barely touched the ice when games mattered, it makes sense that he’d have more energy/desire to prove himself. A number of people suggested Quick to me, but I didn’t think he was that great (the first Selanne goal should’ve been stopped). After a little more thought…how often did you hear Patrick Kane’s name today? A lot, right? He was always around the puck, he generated some legitimate chances…he reminds me of Datsyuk a little bit. If I had to pick a US player of the game, it’s probably him. Kesler was decent too.
Another reason to love Teemu Selanne: he openly celebrated other players’ goals more than his own. He’s the poster boy for “act like you’ve been there before.” People make fun of that expression, and justifiably so, but it’s pretty cool to see a guy who cares that much about a game basically just give ‘er the ol’ tip-of-the-hat golf celebration when he scores, and go bonkers when teammates do.
What an ugly two days for the American squad. It’s a shame, because US hockey has had so much momentum after 2010, and not many people saw them getting their butts handed to them in the national spotlight. The best thing that could come from this is that it forces them to embrace their skill players in the future. This group didn’t work, as teams who prefer Brooks Orpik over Keith Yandle rarely will, particularly in international competition (seven game series on small ice, you might have an argument for the former. You don’t here). It’s time to change their line of thinking.