Canada and Finland clash on Sunday with top spot in the pool at stake in what is the second marquee game of the preliminary round after Russia and the United States set the stage yesterday.
The Finns came into this tournament as the defending bronze medallists and are always considered a threat on the international stage with these Games being no exception. Finland is loaded with NHL talent like much of the gold medal candidates are and while they have two victories on their resume through their first two games they are in for a tough challenge here against the defending champions from Canada. Finland suffered a huge blow before the Games started as they lost both Valteri Fillpula and Mikko Koivu to injury who are arguably the country’s two best forwards and now have lost Aleks Barkov, their top line winger for the rest of the tournament as he suffered a lower body injury in the team’s win over Norway a couple days ago. The timing couldn’t be any worse as Finland is now shorthanded and are playing the best team in the tournament on paper in a game that will decide their fate moving forward.
Canada heads into this game coming off similar back to back victories as they too defeated both Norway and Austria respectively with the latest contest coming in the form of a 6-0 beatdown that was orchestrated by Kings forward Jeff Carter. Canada is undoubtedly a co-favourite at the very least to win this tournament as they are stacked top to bottom as the team’s extra forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders could easily be top line guys for other countries in these Games and with this being the most important game to date for Canada we can expect they will put forth their best effort. Canada lost at this stage in Vancouver to the United States which forced them to play a qualification game against Germany, and while things worked out in their favour in the end you can bet that management, the coaches and the players would love the extra day off to get prepared for the quarterfinals. This is being hyped up as a marquee contest between two hockey nations itching to reach the podium once again but to me there is only one that will be there in the end and they won’t be wearing blue and white. I wasn’t high on Finland coming into this tournament and now without Barkov I think they’re in disarray and getting Canada as two goal favourites is a steal.