Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) said he wouldn't play for Finland if he wasn't the starter. Well, he's playing on Wednesday as the starter against Belarus (3 p.m. EST; US TV: CNBC), with goalie Niklas Backstrom(notes) of the Minnesota Wild set to start against the Germans on Friday.
After that, it's the Kipper show; let's see how he kicks things off against a pesky Belarus.
This is where we start learning about a Finnish team that remains a dark-horse contender to medal after snagging a silver in 2006. It isn't discussed as much as others — most of our Olympic predictions left Finland out of the top four — but the Saku (right) and Mikko Koivu(notes) and Co. could be ones to watch.
Lines for the Finns:
We'll be offering live thoughts on this game throughout the day, as well as the other two games. Use the comments as an open thread, and check back here for news and views.
Finland (1-0, PPG, 1st, 3:24)
Russia scored a goal very similar to this in last night's win over Latvia. Finland worked the puck on the power play, with Saku Koivu(notes) getting it deep to the right of goalie Vitali Koval. Belarus defenseman Vladimir Denisov(notes) dove over to defend the pass, and Koivu just confidently slipped the puck by him to a wide-open Olli Jokinen(notes) for the dunk. Finns carrying the play early.
Finland (2-0, 17:50, 1st)
Niklas Hagman with scored the second Finnish goal on back-handed shovel shot from the slot that handcuffed Koval. Assists go to Mikko Koivu and Joni Pitkanen(notes). Finland had been dominating play, but without establishing all that much in the offensive zone. The Hagman tally came after some nice sustained pressure.
A word on the crowd: Not a sell out, but a really fun collection of Finland fans. Photos to come.
(Jump for more.)
Belarus (2-1 Finland, 2nd, 0:21)
We've got ourselves a hockey game. Sergei Demagin (KHL, former New York Rangers farmhand) steals a puck behind the Finland net, feeds to Sergei Kostitsyn in front. The Montreal Canadiens winger fired it through Kiprusoff's five-hole to cut the Finnish lead in half. This isn't going to be easy.
Finland (3-1, 16:52, 2nd)
One of the best goals of the tournament so far. Mikko Koivu forechecks and forces a turnover in the Belarus zone. Niklas Hagman takes the puck, cuts to the middle, falls to one knee and tucks it to the far post. Fantastic tally, and a bit of breathing room for a Finnish team that had been played evenly by the boys in the Christmas jerseys.
Three-to-one lead at the end of two. I have a radio interview cutting into the afternoon; will try and update before the I have to head to Canada House.
Finland 4-1 (0:23, 3rd)
Ugly, deflating mistake for Belarus. Defenseman Viktor Kostiuchenok attempted to outlet a pass that was intercepted by Mikko Koivu. He fed Filppula in front, who took a shot and then tucked the puck through Koval's five-hold for a commanding lead very early in the period.
Because multi-tasking is fun, I just blogged about Ovechkin's skates on Fourth Place Medal. Check it out.
This may be it for the live blog. We'll update later.