Haggerty breaks down Finland's 3-1 win over Russia

Haggerty breaks down Finland's 3-1 win over Russia
February 19, 2014, 12:15 pm
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The Finns more than held their own against the hosts of the Sochi games, bouncing Russia with a 3-1 win. Here's how we saw it break down.

GOLD STAR: Tuukka Rask needed to step up and give a performance reminiscent of last spring's NHL playoffs, and he did that for a Finland defense that played with discipline in front of him. Rask made 36 saves -- including 14 in the final period when a desperate Russian team threw everything at the net -- and was at his best once his Finn teammates had built him a lead. His stop on an Alex Semin breakaway in the second period was breathtaking as he aggressively attacked out of his crease, and then he stymied golden scoring chances from Evgeni Malkin and Alex Radulov in that decisive third period as Finland went into prevent defense mode. Some were calling for Rask to be replaced after giving up four goals in the Finns’ opening game against Austria, but he showed why he’s one of the best goalies in the world against Russia.
 
BLACK EYE: Alex Ovechkin had three shots on goal in the game, but none in the final third period death throes of his Russian team. The Russian coaching staff went with Semyon Varlamov instead of Sergei Bobrovsky to open the game, and then watched as Varlamov gave up three goals on 15 shots while essentially sinking any chances for Russia. It was too late by the time they put Bobrovsky into the game. Slava Voynov stood still and watched as Mikael Granlund beat him for a 50/50 puck and set up Teemu Selanne for the game-winning goal. There was plenty of blame to go around for Team Russia as there always is when one of the heavy favorites bows out before the medal rounds. Something feels very broken with the Russian team.  
 
TURNING POINT: The Granlund-to-Selanne goal with less than three minutes to go in the first period was the kind of gut punch Finland needed to pull ahead of Russia, and the Muscovites never truly recovered from it. It was a pure hustle goal for Finland, and showed the Russians asleep at the wheel in a do-or-die game. Once the Finns had the lead on Russia they turned up the defensive dial, and watched as their disciplined system and Tuukka Rask’s goaltending slowly choked the life out of a panicked Russian team. The silence in the Russian arena was eerie in the third period.
 
HONORABLE MENTION: A team-high five shots on net and setting up the game-winning goal with his pure hustle play showed off the speed and tenacity in Mikael Granlund’s game. Granlund simply blew up a talented LA Kings defenseman in Slava Voynov, and then used that excellent skill to feed a perfect pass to a waiting Selanne. He was the best player on the ice for Finland, and an emerging NHL star with the Minnesota Wild. Granlund has been exceptional throughout the tournament, and it was fitting he broke through to provide the insurance marker in the second period that truly put Russia away given Finland’s defensive prowess. Both Selanne and Granlund could have understandably struggled once linemate Aleksander Barkov was done for the tourney with an injury, but they just turned their game up a notch.
 
BRUINS BY THE NUMBERS: Tuukka Rask made 36 saves, stood on his head and gave Bruins fans plenty of answers about where his confidence level will at when the NHL season resumes next week. For those looking for the playoff version of the Bruins goaltender, he stood up with resounding brilliances while eliminating the Russians in their own homeland. Rask is truly the man in Finland, and in Boston.
 
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Even though no one ever picks us to win medals, we always seem to find a way to get there.” – Tuukka Rask to Sportsnet following the win.