Russia looks to book their ticket to the semi-finals with a big time win against Finland here who will be finishing up regardless after this one.
Russia controls their own destiny when it comes to qualifying for the semi-finals of this tournament, and while they looked shaky in their opener against Sweden they bounced back with a big second period against North America and if they can win in regulation here against Finland they can move into second place and set up a date with Canada in the semis. Russia has the horses to get on the podium, at least in the offensive zone, and while their blue line is a bit weak they won’t have to deal with a whole lot from the Finns who have been very sluggish through two games and will be on their way out regardless after this one, making it a bit of non factor game for them. Russia needs to make sure they can win this one and with the mounting pressure from their governing body and the sense of pride that a lot of these guys take in international competition I think they come out and steamroll the Finns from the get go.
Finland hasn’t had a great tournament as they fell to North America in their opener and then to their bitter rivals from Sweden in their second matchup and now get a Russian side that almost blew a three goal lead in their last outing, and needs to win to advance to the semis. Finland, much like the Czech Republic, have become an international hockey power but this group on the senior team is a bit behind when it comes to depth and overall talent, and while they have a ton of budding young stars that will get them back to prominence as early as the 2018 Olympics, they are just in a bad spot at this tournament and in this game in particular. The line here is actually pretty good considering Russia needs to win and the game is meaningless for Finland, and while I expect the Finns to sit back and try to play for a low scoring game, I think Russia’s desperation and offensive fire power are the difference which will send them into the semi-finals and dash the hopes of the young North Americans.