As projected, Team Finland landed in a spot they know all too well, in third place with bronze medals. Standings next to powerhouse teams like USA and Canada on the podium is a huge feat that some teams could only dream of. But for Finland, adding a 17th bronze medal to the trophy case sounds more like a villain origin story to me and I’m sure a lot of them are looking at it similarly.
Let’s be honest here, this was a weird tournament. We had some games played with N95 masks on to protect from COVID-19, the departure of the head coach, and this is all after Finland made big news by not bringing Noora Ratÿ to Beijing. Despite all of this, I would consider what Finland did triumphant. In the age of ‘wondering why women’s hockey belongs in the Olympics,’ this Finland team proved exactly why. Skills, heart, and a storyline for the ages.
After a slow start in the beginning of the tournament, they were able to pull together and show a ton of fight but ultimately could not triumph over the USA or Canada teams that have burned them too many times in the past.
How Finland Finished
Ultimately, they went 3-4 on the tournament, coming in third, with two shutouts against ROC and Switzerland for the bronze medal which they should hold their heads high about after losing to the Swiss in the group stage.
What Went Right
- Special Teams: Finland had the second best power play this Olympics, as well as the third best penalty kill, which is better in both categories than Team USA. They had 9 power play goals during the tournament, and only allowed 4 power play goals against which is less than Team Canada. If there’s one thing this team doesn’t need to do anything to, it’s their special teams units.
- They bounced back well: Their ability to come out stronger on top of some early adversity is admirable but also really important to make for good games. Finland faced a tough schedule early on including a loss to Switzerland that they likely weren’t counting on, and what I could only describe as a demolition by Team Canada. They also had to readjust after head coach Pasi Mustonen left Beijing early in the tournament for family issues back home. Still they were able to turn it around, taking three wins and ultimately shutting out the Swiss to grab the bronze medal.
- Shot Efficiency: The Finns also landed just second best in shooting percentage for the tournament. I’ll let you assume who took first in that category. While it’s the goals, not the shots, that ultimately wins you games, the fact that Finland proved they have quality shot making ability, and can do so with frequency is something positive to build off of with their younger players and something to cherish.
What Went Wrong
- Goaltender depth: This was something Finland had a big issue with. Comparatively to a team like USA who made use of all of their great goaltenders, Finland mainly relied on Anni Kiesala, who shouldered that burden well, and Meeri Raisanen who unfortunately fell flat resulting in a .800 save percentage, and no wins for her. Considering the controversy surrounding Finland leaving Noora Räty off of the roster, one can’t help but wonder what it could have looked like if Kiesala was treated as an alternative rather than the main event.
- Morale: It is also no secret that Team Canada absolutely dominated this tournament. Against Finland, this was no exception. One of the dark spots of the tournament for the Finns is their 11-1 loss to the Canadians. The largest margin Canada handed anyone was 11 goals to both Switzerland and Sweden so Finland just barely squeaked passed that. While I can’t say losing to them by a smaller margin would have changed the outcome of the standings, I think it may have helped team morale. Just a day later, Finland had a lackluster showing against Switzerland and I can’t help by think Canada may have had an effect on that.
- Taking too many penalties: While Canada easily takes the top spot for most penalties this tournament, you can afford to when you’re outscoring your opponent’s 10-1. That is not a luxury Finland ever had this Olympics. They claim the second most penalties, with a whopping 58 minutes spent in the box. Like I said before, their special teams do work really well so fortunately they only gave up 4 power play goals but in some of those closer games, that could become quite an issue.
Top 3 Players
Obviously players like Petra Nieminen and Michelle Karvinen had great impacts on Finlands ability to perform at this Olympics. They bring the leadership and experience this team needed, but I’m choosing to highlight three players that don’t typically get the spotlight with this team.
- Anni Kiesala, Goaltender: There is no way around it, Kiesala kept them in this tournament and is the reason why they have the bronze medal that they do. She posted two shutouts, a .915 save percentage, and faced the second most shots out of anyone else in the tournament.
- Sussana Tapani, Forward: With 8 points this Olympics, Tapani seemed to constantly be on the score sheet when you needed her to be. With 6 goals, she claimed more than any of her teammates. Simply put, she was electric on the ice and a crucial part of scoring in some of those tight games.
- Nelli Laitinen, Defender: Not only did Laitinen have the most points on Team Finland of any defenders, but she was the only defender without a negative goal differential, proving she was playing an important two-way role successfully. At just 19, this is a breakout performance for the defender. I expect we will be seeing a lot more of her in the coming years.