Canada vs. Finland: Keys to the game:
LINE 'EM UP
We said it in Game 1, but it’s even more important now: By the end of tonight, coach Mike Babcock and his staff needs to have a strong idea of what type of a lineup he will want to use in the next round.
With the winner getting the opportunity to clinch Group B and a bye past the first elimination round, the game has some meaning. While it’s not crucial, as Canada found out four years ago when it was the No. 6 seed entering the playoff rounds in 2010, any break can help in a one-game elimination tourney.
All eyes will be on who Mike Babcock starts in net for Game 3, a potential indicator of where he wants to go the rest of the tournament. Roberto Luongo was the sharper of the two netminders in the opening two games, but only because he had to be. Carey Price was solid in the first game.
While the Canadians scored enough against Norway and Austria in early wins, they weren’t exactly lighting it up offensively. In their previous Olympic meeting vs. Finland eight years ago, they managed just 24 shots on net. They will need to generate more offence both today and beyond.
When at its best, Finland employs a tight-checking game that can frustrate even top opponents. In the 2006 Olympics, for example, they beat both Canada and Russia in shootouts. With several of their top scorers injured, look for Finland to try to frustrate the top offensive Canadian players.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Canada’s top two lines vs. Tuukka Rask
Assuming the Bruins star gets the call, he will be by far the toughest goaltender the Canadians have faced so far. And with the top forward group not exactly filling the net against lesser teams, let’s see how they respond.
Expect coach Mike Babcock to continue his tinkering, especially on the Sidney Crosby line and on the blueline. Speculation is that John Tavares may get some shifts with Crosby. Other hints are that P.K. Subban, who sat Game 1, will also be out as Dan Hamhuis returns.
The last Canadian player to score an Olympic goal against Finland was the current GM, Steve Yzerman, who scored the game-winner in a 2-1 win in their 2002 quarter-final.
- ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency