Friday, September 10, 2004


It wasn't the best hockey game anyone has ever seen; I know it was in Saint Paul, but that didn't mean a Minnesota Wild game had to break out. Anyway, this was largely to the advantage of Team Finland, who was able to have a very physical and tight-checking and trapping game to take away Team USA's speed and any sort of flow they hoped to get.

Finland had already proved it was the most complete team in the European pool, and they took their game plan to the United States tonight and pulled off possibly the biggest upset in Finnish history, coming up with a goal late in the third period to move on to the World Cup final on Tuesday.

Robert Esche was in net for the USA, and Miikka Kiprusoff took the net once again for the Finns.

Once again, times are approximate. There's possibly a big gap in the first period due to me trying to edit a certain Mariner post and both the computer and Blogger going nuts on me.

16:50 Ken Klee was pad-stopped from the right circle, and Jeff Halpern was stopped in close on the left side by Kiprusoff
16:38 Esche made a pad save on Tuomo Ruutu's shot from the right side

The Finns established their tight-checking game plan early on.

8:01 Jason Blake misses the net wide right
7:27 Ossi Vaananen lets an elbow fly high and hit Chris Chelios. The officials missed the call
4:30 Ville Nieminen delivered a big hit on Paul Martin
3:00 Tuomo Ruutu put a shot off the left side of the net
2:10 Bill Guerin's shoot-in met the right pad of Kiprusoff
1:11 Teppo Numminen was stopped from the blue line
0:45 Ville Peltonen's shot into traffic was stopped
0:00 decent-sized scrum in the corner

I haven't been listing shoot-ins in past WCH recaps, but I already warned that this was a Wild game. Shots were 4-3 in Finland's favor in the first period.

Once again, the Saint Paul fans' lack of intensity was noticed by the CBC panel (McLean/B Burke/Hrudey). Burke said that the fans were "dead before the game started." The panel also noted of the center-lock defense that the Finns were using to clog the neutral zone. Hrudey also noted that it'd be bad for the Finns if Nieminen started letting his elbows fly around and getting unnecessary penalties.

19:34 Esche corralled a loose puck slowly moving toward the crease
14:24 Jere Lehtinen's shot from between the circles sailed high, just over the crossbar
12:58 Brian Smolinski's long range shot was easily gloved by Kiprusoff, who saw the shot all the way
12:48 A deflection off a skate was involved on another Smolinski shot, which was once again gloved
12:03 Blake was on the rush and missed his shot from the left side
11:02 A Numminen shot from the blue line was blocked by Steve Konowalchuk
9:13 A Mikko Eloranta centering pass was nearly buried in close
9:08 Toni Lydman was stopped by Esche
8:46 Kiprusoff made another stop, but I didn't get the shooter's name

At this point in the game, Team USA was able to kick up the tempo a bit and get some decent scoring chances. They were also aided by an untimely penalty by Canuck Jarkko Ruutu, a play in which he delivered a big hit, and still kept going with the roughage, which the refs call. They'll let it slide if you're Peter Forsberg, but not if you're Jarkko Ruutu.

7:33 On the power play, Bill Guerin was stopped by Kiprusoff
7:15 Kiprusoff flashed the pad save on Scott Gomez on the power play
**7:03 Off a faceoff win, Scott Gomez fed a pass across the ice and through Ossi Vaananen's legs to hit Doug Weight coming in through the back door on the left side. Kiprusoff had no chance (USA 1-0)
4:45 Esche makes two big stops, a pad save on Teemu Selanne on the doorstep, and a stop on Saku Koivu on the rebound
3:57 Behind the net, Mike Modano chopped his stick in on Lydman, who was trying to move the puck out of the zone. The puck came loose and almost went in off Kiprusoff's skate
2:01 Koivu (I think younger brother Miko was scratched in this game) had a golden scoring opportunity on the rush, but tried to put one too many moves on Esche rather than putting a shot on the net. Klee bumped him off the puck
0:08 Konowalchuk had his shot gloved from the left point

The Jarkko Ruutu penalty proved to be costly. As for shots, there really weren't many more. The USA had the edge in shots by a 10-7 margin. Yes, the goalies were getting peppered with pucks, but at a rate of once every five minutes or so.

19:29 Koivu shot wide
**14:56 Tuomo Ruutu created a giveaway, leading to a shot that rebounded off Esche and went off the skates of two players. Olli Jokinen got control of the puck and lit the ol' lamp to tie the game (1-1)
11:25 Off a giveaway, Tuomo Ruutu fired a shot that went off the knob of Esche's stick
10:36 Team USA had a fluury of scoring chances by players whose names I didn't pick out quick enough. Nonetheless, Kiprusoff made a save off a shot from the blue line and stopped two close-range shots in quick succession
8:59 Mike Modano's shot from the blue line met the pads of Kiprusoff
7:37 Jukka Hentunen was slowed down on the rush and his shot from between the circles was stopped
4:31 One of the Finns fired an 80-foot shot or so, and Esche didn't make the cleanest stop on it
**3:53 Vaananen made a cross-ice pass behind the defense to Koivu, who was left uncovered by Tony Amonte and Brian Leetch on the right side. Koivu easily scored, and the Finns were the recipients of the first lead change in the tournament (FIN 2-1)
3:04 Aki Berg went to the penalty box for elbowing, and if it wouldn't have been that, it would have been because he left his feet to make a hit. Either way, this put the Finns' lead in a precarious position with just over three minutes to play
2:44 Kiprusoff made a huge save off a one-timer
1:22 Blake smelled the glove from the right circle
0:39 Kiprusoff came out unscathed after another high-traffic flurry in front of the net
0:30-0:10 Kiprusoff loses his stick, but no shots make it to the net
0:04 The USA won a faceoff from the left circle and ripped a quick shot, and Kiprusoff made the stick save for his 15th of the game

After the game, Burke noted that a key ingredient to the Finns' win was the double-shifting of Jokinen. Hrudey said the Finns remind him of the Flames, a team that adheres to whatever system the coach wants to play, and then plays as a cohesive team. Color man Greg Millen said that Team USA played right into the Finns' hands, and Hrudey seconded this, saying that the USA was playing poorly and lackadaisically in their own zone, and that some of the statesiders weren't finishing their checks.

CBC's three stars: Saku Koivu, Olli Jokinen, Doug Weight

Well, Team USA slips up, doesn't take their game to the opposition, and is out of the tournament. I've seen a team do something like this before, except I had more of a vested interest in the Canucks last spring and it took seven games (and a couple overtime games) instead of one for them to be eliminated.

It's the Czech Republic and Canada from Toronto tomorrow for a 3:30pm faceoff.

Finland will play in the final in Toronto on Tuesday at 4pm against the winner of the other semifinal game.

But what a night for the Finns, and what a night for Saku Koivu. If you don't know what Koivu has come back from, then take a look at this.

[Edit ~8:03p -- Bonus points for anyone who was able to pick out the Spinal Tap reference.]

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