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08-13-2012, 04:03 PM
  #61
Tormentor
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I watched the last three Team Finland’s games (3rd, 4th and 5th) at Lake Placid from Fasthockey, some random thoughts:

- Not sure, but the ice surface seemed slightly bigger than in previous years, I believe they played at the Herb Brooks Arena?

- Team Finland had the youngest team and also the toughest schedule in this event.

- They weren’t hugely outplayed or outshot in the games I watched, this is an improvement over the last two seasons.

- Sweden and USA have very good depth, so Finland missing few key players had an impact to the games. Granlund was out from the whole event, Salomäki only played in the first(?) and the last game, Barkov and Pokka didn’t dress for the 4th game and so on.

- I believe that the team will be more competitive once (and if) all the top guys are available and less experienced guys get games with men (Players from Sweden, USA and Canada are on average better adapted to tougher games in their juniors leagues so they have an early advantage). Canada, Sweden, USA and Russia are the favourites, but I believe that the medal rounds are a possibility for this team. They already have plenty of good pieces to build around, the coaching staff just needs to find a few additional players who are truly capable of competing at this level.

- The coaching experimented with different line combos quite a bit, nice to see that everything isn’t set in stone at this point.

- Aaltonen is clearly in a good pre-season shape, will be interesting to see whether he’s able to continue his good form in SM-liiga.

- Teräväinen, let’s just say that I was expecting slightly more from him. Some nice plays, but overall a disappointment, luckily it’s just pre-season. Some of the fancy plays were ineffective, caused a few unnecessary turnovers, didn’t get the power play running, a bit soft on the puck and at times had some trouble withstanding contact/pressure. He was benched alongside with Armia for the 3rd period of the 4th game.

- Lehkonen displayed good decision making, and ability to handle and move the puck. Played well in short handed situations and showed good backchecking. It’s definitely a positive for this team that he’s not afraid to shoot.

- Leino played well considering that he was a late addition to the roster (replaced Granlund). Able to play all forward positions in all situations. Skill aspect has always been in his game, but now he looks stronger, faster and better, just needs to get more experience from tougher games (=play against men either in SM-liiga or Mestis).

- I liked what I saw from Hännikäinen, mostly good decisions with the puck, always played for the team and was solid on short handed situations. His skating still looks a bit awkward and he doesn’t have enough creativity or puck skills to be a big offensive threat, but still a valuable player for the team.

- Kallela seemed a bit underpowered for this level of competition, played plenty with the top guys but was always the weakest link. Decent play with the puck and might be an alternative for the 3rd line if there are injuries.

- I wasn’t overly impressed by Liedes, Nyberg or Lamberg, hopefully the coaching staff is able to find better 4th line forwards. Advancing the play on a more consistent basis would be beneficial for the team, these guys were unable to do it.

- Didn’t notice Salminen on the ice, either he played very little or didn’t play at all in the games that I watched (last three).

- Ristolainen and Määttä played together quite a bit, that would be a nice 1st pairing, could easily play 25 minutes a game and be competitive. Ristolainen played with an edge and took a few too many penalties because of it, something to work on.

- Lindell has improved his skating and physique a bit during the summer, and training with men has helped (and will continue to help) his defensive game to improve. He seemed to play a lot as a 2nd pairing guy, so I’m guessing he’s a likely 4th/5th defenseman for the WJC team. Lindell-Pokka won’t be the most agile pairing, but that’s probably our 2nd pairing right now, like it or not.

- Valkonen looked like a solid shutdown D, battled hard and showed a good physical presence on the ice. Seems like a likely addition to the WJC team in a depth role, for me he’s a good 5th/6th defenseman every day of the week.

- Lindbohm didn’t play in this event because of an injury, but I have a hunch that he has a fairly good chance of making this team as a physical 6th/7th defenseman. There are several decent alternatives for the last D spots and I guess it comes down to which guys get proper ice time in SM-liiga and Mestis.

- Goaltending needs to improve a bit from this event, but that’s nothing new when looking at previous years. Ullberg can make some big saves, but consistency is a bit of a concern. Needs to learn to read the play a bit better and reduce the number of soft goals. He will probably be one of the two goalies, hard to say whether that’s as a starter or a back-up. Will be interesting to see where and how much Ullberg, Korpisalo, Perhonen, Juvonen and others get to play, that might be decisive.

- I guess that Granlund, Salomäki, Armia, Aaltonen, Teräväinen, Barkov, J.Ikonen and Lehkonen could all play in a top-6 role and not look terribly out of place, it’s up to the coaches to decide which combos are suitable for the team. Lehkonen played as a 3rd liner quite a bit in this event, so that might be an indicator of what his role is going to be. Leino and Hännikäinen could play in a 3rd/4th line role depending on what the team needs are.

- I have mixed feelings about Ikonen and I’m not quite sure what to write about him. He’s a good passer and able to move the puck fast, therefore in theory he’s a suitable guy for playing with other skilled players. I’m just not sure if he’s what this team needs the most in top-6, Armia, Granlund and Teräväinen aren’t the most consistent guys out there, and Salomäki, Aaltonen and Barkov would provide much needed stability far better than young lightweight Ikonen. He was a bit of a non-factor at times, but still brought some offence to the team. He could be useful as a 2nd or 3rd line right winger, but if all the top forwards are healthy he might see limited ice time or even end up being the 13th forward. I’m guessing that he’s a likely but not certain addition to the WJC team at this point.

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Barkov, Aaltonen, Salomäki, Granlund, Teräväinen, Leino could all play centre forward without much trouble, so possible line combos seem almost endless. Players without brackets are likely choices (more or less) for the WJC’s IMO:

Markus Granlund - Miro Aaltonen - Joel Armia
Teuvo Teräväinen - Aleksander Barkov - Miikka Salomäki
Markus Hännikäinen - Robert Leino - Artturi Lehkonen
(xxxxxxxxx) - (yyyyyyyyy) - (zzzzzzzzz)
Juuso Ikonen

Olli Määttä - Rasmus Ristolainen
Esa Lindell - Ville Pokka
Joonas Valkonen - (ååååååååå)
(Petteri Lindbohm)

(Richard Ullberg)
(äääääääää)

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