February 16 2014 06:36AM
Sunday’s match between the Canadian and Finnish men’s hockey teams isn’t an elimination game, but it is the first chance Canada will have to play against an actual medal threat in Sochi. Finland by most estimates ranks fifth among best-on-best teams at games like this, and in the early going has cut through the Austrian and Norwegian entries with the same ease as Canada.
And for their biggest test of the tournament, head coach Mike Babcock has made some lineup changes.
Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Canada’s lines today are as follows:
- Jamie Benn – Sidney Crosby – Patrice Bergeron
- Matt Duchene – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
- Patrick Marleau – Jonathan Toews – Jeff Carter
- Patrick Sharp/Chris Kunitz – John Tavares – Rick Nash
- Duncan Keith – Shea Weber
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Drew Doughty
- Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
- Dan Hamhuis
- Carey Price
The Second Guessing
Let’s start on the back end.
I probably would have gone with Roberto Luongo over Carey Price, but then I would have started Luongo in the first game and Price in the second because I entered this tournament valuing Luongo a hair over Price. Babcock has the order reversed, and honestly the players are so close that it’s impossible to fault him for that. He didn’t have a reason to change his mind, so Price gets first crack at the games that matter.
I was surprised to see P.K. Subban scratched; I thought he looked excellent in Canada’s last game and is pretty clearly the team’s fifth-best defenceman, with left siders Vlasic, Bouwmeester and Hamhuis all behind him on the depth chart. It’s going to be very interesting to see if any defensive weaknesses are exposed by the Finns.
The forward combinations are interesting, and seem predicated on the idea that Crosby will be able to power one line and that the important thing is to make sure lines two and three work. It’s not a bad idea; Benn was fantastic against Norway and has been head-and-shoulders above Kunitz, while Bergeron has been quite good on John Tavares’ wing and had World Junior chemistry with Crosby.
If the first line is a bit of a question mark, the second and third look solid. Getzlaf/Perry have been good in both games, and Duchene really impressed with his speed against Austria; meanwhile Marleau leads the team in scoring and Carter was fantastic in Canada’s second game so the “third” line (I have them listed third because Babcock’s been using them as a hard-checking line to some degree) looks brilliant.
That leaves the other guys with Tavares; I think the only question here is why Kunitz gets a spot over a guy like Martin St. Louis who can be plugged in offensively on any line. Kunitz has not had a good tourney, but sticking him in the bottom four is at least better than putting him on the top line.
Tough OLY for FLA. Barkov out of tourney (knee). MRI today but expected to miss NHL time (weeks?). Kopecky (head), also expected out of OLY.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 16, 2014
The loss of Barkov is a big blow for Finland; he was playing key minutes at centre for the team and is presently the tournament’s top faceoff man with an 83.3 percent win rate.
Fans here in Edmonton have had a chance to see some extremely good Finns up close, and consequently there’s probably a bit of a soft spot for the team; in a game played against anyone other than Canada I’d expect Finland would probably be the preferred winner by Oilers fans. From Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen down to Janne Niinimaa and Jussi Markkanen, Edmonton’s been given good service by the country of Sisu.
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