Finland is coming in the 4th ranked country by the IIHF.
A silver medal last Olympics & a silver & 2 bronze in the last 4 World Championships has the Finnish team seriously thinking medals here too & they certainly are capable of the feat.
In goal, they might have the strongest duo in the tourney with Kirpusoff & Backstrom. Whoever they pick for the 3rd goalie is also very likely going to be a decent pick for the 3 spot, whether its Nittymaki, Rask or new up & comer Antti Niemi.
On defense, they have a capable unit. Although it might be their weakness overall, its still not too shabby with the likes of Timonen, Salo & Pitkanen patrolling the line. But it is a more offensively skilled than neccesarily defensively skilled unit.
Up front this team has some offensive skill, but if Teemu Selanne cant go, it will be offensively challenged in comparison to the other top tier countries. The Koivu brothers & Olli Jokinen will be expected to fill in as secondary scoring to the Finnish Flash.
Miika Kiprusoff- CALGARY FLAMES (NHL) Kipper has come out & said he wont go if he isnt the starter. Since then he has done pretty much everything he can to justify him being the starter. Finland will quite likely give him the spot. But if he falters even slightly, they will not hesitate to jump to Niklas.
Niklas Backstrom- MINNESOTA WILD (NHL) Could be the starter if Kiprusoff falters even slightly. Most deserving of a number 1 spot, but will probably play back up so that the Finns can keep Kipper happy.
Tuuka Rask- BOSDTON BRUINS (NHL) Has been a top prospect for awhile & has played very well this year, Tuuka will probably be the 3rd goalie, although he has some competition lurking around in the form of Nittymaki & Niemi. But I think hes just been more consistent & consistently good out of the 3, so he'll get the nod.
Kimmo Timonen- PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (NHL) Leads in every offensive category for Finnish defenders. Will be on the top unit & top PP unit. Will also be expected to play considerable SH time.
Sami Salo- VANCOUVER CANUCKS (NHL) Although hes having a quiet year offensively so far, the potential for what he can do on the PP gives Sami a lock on this team. Maybe anchoring the 2nd unit & the other option on the 1st PP unit.
Joni Pitkanen- CAROLINA HURRICANES (NHL) Has been a decent set up man this year, but defensively is struggling greatly. Expect to see in even strength & PP situations.
Sami Lepisto- PHOENIX COYOTES (NHL) Will very likely round out the 3rd unit & get some PP ice time.
Toni Lydman- BUFFALO SABRES (NHL) He'll get some game action, whether its just as a 3rd unit piece, or if he gets any SH & PP time is still up in the air.
Lasse Kukkonen- OMSK AVANGARD (KHL) The best of the bunch overseas has probably been Kukkonen, so he will probably beat out part time NHLer Salmela & SEL PP star Puistola for the final spot.
Ossi Vaananen- MINSK DYNAMO (KHL) A former NHL defenseman who has had a resurgence in Russia this season. Not going to be relied on offensively, he will be able to work solely on being a shutdown dman.
Teemu Selanne- ANAHEIM DUCKS (NHL) Assuming he is back in time to play, Teemu is a lock. He will be their top offensive weapon & will be relied on heavily in PP situations. If he cant go, the Finns are going to notable struggle offensively, even with the other NHL level players they have.
Saku Koivu- ANAHEIM DUCKS (NHL) He might not be an offensive dynamo anymore, but he still has a touch. he'll get top 2 line minutes for sure & some PP time on the top unit perhaps.
Mikko Koivu- MINNESOTA WILD (NHL) An offensive weapon who is also a strong checker, Mikko will be out there probably the most of all the forwards as he can play in all situations.
Olli Jokinen- CALGARY FLAMES (NHL) An underperforming year offensively right now, Olli is still looked at as one of the countries top offensive weapons. Expect lots of PP time & top 2 lines time.
Niklas Hagman- TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (NHL) A strong offensive year from Niklas will get him a look as a top 2 line forward. He has done the role of checker before, so if needed he can fill in there too.
Antti Mietinen- MINNESOTA WILD (NHL) A recent offensive struggle has perhaps triggered some concerns for a guy the Finns probably had penciled into their top 2 lines. Regardless, he will still be here, even if its as a 3rd liner.
Tuomo Ruutu- CAROLINA HURRICANES (NHL) Having a relatively good year offensively, they will look at Tumo as a probable top 2 line player.
Jarkko Ruutu- OTTAWA SENATORS (NHL) A tough checker who has some offensive skills. Jarkko will be a 2 way player on the 3rd line that they will rely on to aggitate the other teams top players.
Jussi Jokinen- CAROLINA HURRICANES (NHL) A reasonable offensive year & a penchant for shootout goals, Jussi will come in as a 3rd line type player who will be relied on heavily if a game is headed to the dreaded shootout.
Jere Lehtinen- DALLAS STARS (NHL) Getting a bit older, but still has a decent grasp on the defensive side of the game. A checking role is his for sure.
Valtteri Filppula- DETROIT RED WINGS (NHL) If he is unable to go, this spot will go to his teammate Leino. If he is able to go, expect him to be out there potentially in all situations.
Niko Kapanen- KAZAN AK-BARS (KHL) In Russia he has developed into a decent checking forward. Will probably get a role like that here.
Petteri Nokelainen- ANAHEIM DUCKS (NHL) Will be there solely for his defensive game & not much more.
maybe- Antti Niemi, Antero Nittymaki, Anssi Salmela, Ville Koistinen, Pasi Puistola, Ville Leino, Jarkko Immonen, Jukka Voutilainen, Tuomas Pihlman, Ville Peltonen, Hannes Hyvonen.
The Wild, generally a great signing team were so-so today. Lot of it had to do with several players coming out at once & a meager crowd of only 6-7 people waiting.
Some of it had to do with having 4-5 new faces on the team & 1 or 2 faces that people generally didnt have stuff for.
For me, it also didnt help that I didnt bother with befor ethe practice, still sleeping off a long night before of celebrity hounding.
NIKLAS BACKSTROM- 2 autographs. Could have infact got more perhaps, but he was rushed and I was trying to get two players at once, so I eased up & with with 2 items. He likely would have done more. Shockingly, before the game he ignored everyone on 1 side & only signed for 1 person on the opposite side. But un-Backstrom like.
JOSH HARDING- 2 autographs. It was the nicest I have seen him in a long time. Hes usually a bit elusive. Not terrible, but not the type to walk over to you & do multiple items everytime you see him. Today he did do multiple items.
BRENT BURNS- 1 autographs. Getting 1 from Burns is actually good. On average, I see him sign less than 1/2 the time. So getting 1 was better than I hoped. Requests for multiples were ignored.
GREG ZANON- 0 autographs. Happily did any items he was asked to sign.
MAREK ZIDLICKY, KIM JOHNSSON, SHANE HNIDY, NICK SCHULTZ, JAMIE SIFERS, JOHN SCOTT- Do not have a report on.
MIKKO KOIVU- 1 autograph. I missed him after practice, but before the game was there. He was a strict 1 per, but made sure he got everyone that asked him.
MARTIN HAVLAT- 3 autographs. Still willing to sign whatever is asked of him. Helped that there was such a meager crowd I'm sure.
PETR SYKORA- 0 autographs. Came out with Havlat, so he was barely asked. But the people who did ask got him on multiple items.
OWEN NOLAN- 1 autograph. Hes been consistently a 1 per for a few yrs now, still is.
JAMES SHEPPARD- 1 autograph. Learned a tip about him. He will sign 1 of each item. So if you have 3 of the same card, he'll only do one...even though he signed 9 for the person right beside him, just because they were all different.
ANDREW BRUNETTE- 0 autographs. I somehow missed him because I couldnt figure where I had hid his card when he came in. Signed for those who asked though.
DEREK BOOGAARD- 0 autographs. His hearing works, as he heard me when I said "I take that as a no?" after he ignored us for the 2nd time in the day. But clearly his vision doesnt. He managed to miss everyones sharpies & is clearly confusing the plastic beer cups on his shelf for trophies. For a guy who is a future AHL cast away he sure has quite the attitude.
ERIC BELANGER, PIERRE MARC BOUCHARD, CAL CLUTTERBUCK, BENOIT POULIOT, KYLE BRODZIAK, NATHAN SMITH, ANTTI MIETTINEN, ANDY HILBERT- Do not have a report on.
Total for Minnesota- 11 autographs.
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From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.