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The men’s ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Games is expected to be the most thrilling and popular even at the Olympics. We’re breaking down all 12 teams until the tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Finland competes in Group B in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are five reasons why they could totally medal in Sochi:
1. They have the best goaltending in the tournament.
Between Antti Niemi, Kari Lehtonen and expected no. 1 Tuukka Rask, the Finns are the envy of many countries in this tournament.
2. It's their thing.
Dating back to the 1988 Games in Calgary, the Finns have medaled in five of the last seven tournaments. Since the NHL got involved in 1998, they've earned two bronze and a silver. This is what Finland does. They go into these tournaments under the radar, letting Canada, Russia, U.S. and Sweden get all the headlines and favorite talk, then "come out of nowhere" to find themselves on the podium ing the end.
3. Kids making an impact
Prior to the NHL break, Finland lost three players to injury. Valtteri Filippula and the Koivu brothers, Mikko and Saku. Couple that with only seven players from 2010 returning and it's time for their youth to announce themselves. Leading the way will be forward Aleksandr Barkov and defenseman Olli Maatta. Barkov is tied for scoring on the Florida Panthers with 24 points in 54 games, while Maatta has become a solid presence on the Pittsburgh Penguins' blue line, notching 23 points and averaging 17:43 of ice time per game.
4. Last hurrah for veterans.
319. That's the number of combined senior appearances for Finland by Teemu Selanne, Sami Salo, Olli Jokinen and Kimmo Timonen. There may not be NHL participation at the 2018 Games, but those four aren't getting any younger, and their days representing Finland are quickly coming to an end. Imagine the Finns rallying around their graybeards to get gold much like the 2001 Colorado Avalanche did for Ray Bourque and the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning did for Dave Andreychuk en route to Stanley Cups.
5. Olli Jokinen scoring machine.
Over the past two Olympics, no player from any country has outscored the Jokinen, who unretired from international play to join the Finns in Sochi. His 9 goals are one more than Alex Ovechkin, Daniel Alfredsson and Marian Hossa.
C’mon, Can These Guys Actually Medal?
Yes, of course. Maybe not gold, but the Finns have proven to be a spunky bunch and able to find their way to winning silver or bronze. They'll get out of Group B with Canada and then face a dog fight into a medal game. But as they've proven time and time again, it's possible they leave these games with a medal, most likely bronze.