Sochi Olympics 2014: Finland Roster Analysis

Image courtesy of foxsportsasia.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite the tournament being all but over, we promised you twelve roster analyses, so twelve you shall receive!  Here is the final article for your enjoyment!

The World’s greatest international hockey competition is upon us.  As teams make their final preparations, and strategise for the tough road ahead, Ice Nation UK is going to break down each and every roster in attendance.

Keep checking in over the next couple of days as we bring you the very best in analysis, and you might learn a thing or two about how the best hockey nations on the planet stack up against each other “on paper”.

Next up: the goalie factory and producer of some of the world’s finest hockey players,the country affectionately known by it’s native name “Suomi”, Finland.

THE ROSTER

Forwards (14):

  • Image courtesy of NBC.

    Juhamatti Aaltonen

  • Aleksander Barkov
  • Mikael Granlund
  • Jarkko Immonen
  • Jussi Jokinen
  • Olli Jokinen
  • Leo Komarov
  • Petri Kontiola
  • Lauri Korpikoski
  • Jori Lehterä
  • Antti Pihlström
  • Tuomo Ruutu
  • Sakari Salminen
  • Teemu Selänne

Defence (8):

  • Lasse Kukkonen
  • Juuso Hietanen
  • Sami Lepistö
  • Olli Määttä
  • Sami Salo
  • Kimmo Timonen
  • Ossi Väänänen
  • Sami Vatanen

Goal (3):

  • Kari Lehtonen
  • Antti Niemi
  • Tuukka Rask

FORWARDS

Finland Forwards Analysis – Scoring Stats

In order to analyse the forward selections, the first port of call is quite obviously their scoring numbers.  Hockey is won by the team that scores more goals, so what better way to evaluate the players whose job it is to do just that?

The following table displays each forward named to Finland, followed by their position, age, their statistics for each of the four seasons leading up to the Olympics, their totals, and the averages.

Seasons coloured GREEN are those spent entirely or partially in a league other than the NHL.  Scoring totals include those obtained while playing in other domestic leagues around the globe, both professional and junior (if applicable).  Click the image to enlarge it.

FIN FWD - STATS

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com; table created by Chris Hext.
  • Finland have long been a favourite of hockey fans for their exciting style of play, high skill level and excellent goaltending.  Unfortunately for this year’s edition, a good portion of their skill level was kept from playing in this tournament, thanks to injuries to star forwards Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula.  This puts a major dent in the potential effectiveness of their forward corps, but there is still significant talent present.
  • Aleksander Barkov is having a fine rookie season in the NHL, proving the scouting reports on him being an excellent two-way player to be completely true.  He’ll likely be a depth option for this team, but is a fine one at that. [Editor’s Note: Barkov was injured in the early stages of the tournament and was unable to play the remainder of the tournament.]
  • Mikael Granlund, one of the most highly touted FInnish players in a long time, struggled in his first North American season last year, but has rebounded this year somewhat and will look to gain some confidence playing for his country.  He was outstanding on the big ice in the Liiga before he came over, and could be a star for the team in this tournament.
  • The remainder of Finland’s NHL contingent up front are an experienced crew, each with several NHL seasons under their belt, and a mix of two-way talent (Jussi Jokinen, Lauri Korpikoski, Tuomo Ruutu) and former offensive stars (Olli Jokinen, and the invincible Teemu Selanne).
  • Most of the rest of the forward corps play in Russia’s KHL, so should be familiar with the way things work there for Sochi, and all are at worst secondary scorers, with several being prime offensive contributors for their respective teams.  This bodes well for Finland even in spite of their injury troubles.

Finland Forwards Analysis – Deployment and Usage

The next table displays the usage of each forward on their respective NHL teams, including their relative ranking on their team in terms of Time On Ice.  Those who are top 3 on their respective teams in any of the disciplines can likely be considered to be highly trusted and valued players by their coach.

This is not a perfect measure by any means — players like Pavelski are probably unfairly punished due to the depth on their teams — but it does give some indication as to how Team Finland might be expected to use them.  Click the image to enlarge.

FIN FWD - TOI

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com; table created by Chris Hext.

Finland Forwards Analysis – Underlying Numbers

Finally, let’s dig a bit deeper and explore these players’ underlying numbers.  Thanks to Robert Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, we can track how players are doing in terms of their possession game, as well as the kind of competition they are taking on.  The following chart displays this information for the Finland forwards.

FIN FWD - PUC

  • The bluer the bubble, the better the player’s Corsi number; the x-axis displays the offensive zone start percentage, and the y-axis is the quality of competition.

The following table displays each forward, their individual Fenwick For Percentages (shot attempts) and PDO numbers (on-ice shooting and save percentages added together, an expression of “luck”), the FF% and PDO numbers for their respective NHL clubs, and their clubs’ NHL Conference rank at the time of writing.

FIN FWD - ADV

Statistics courtesy of ExtraSkater.com; table created by Chris Hext.

DEFENSE

Finland Defense Analysis – Scoring Stats

The following table displays each defender named to Finland, followed by their position, age, their statistics for each of the four seasons leading up to the Olympics, their totals, and the averages.

Seasons coloured GREEN are those spent entirely or partially in a league other than the NHL.  Scoring totals include those obtained while playing in other domestic leagues around the globe, both professional and junior (if applicable).  Click the image to enlarge it.

FIN DEF - STATS

  • There is very little in the way of NHL talent here compared to other major hockey powers, though what they do have is very effective.
  • Olli Määttä is having a brilliant rookie season for Pittsburgh, and while assertions that he’s made star defender Kris Letang redundant are premature, he certainly looks to be a stud two-way star.  He’s earned his spot on this team, and will be learning from some experienced hands.
  • Kimmo Timonen and Sami Salo are the two constants for Finland over the years.  Timonen has represented the team in seven World Championships and five Olympic Games, while Salo has appeared in two World Championships and three Olympics.  They are both excellent defenders even at a relatively advanced age for hockey players, and their puck-moving ability and leadership will be counted upon heavily.
  • Sami Vatanen is proving to be an outstanding puck mover, piling up points in Liiga and the AHL, and posting solid NHL numbers for a young d-man.  He could be a significant powerplay threat.
  • Väänänen and Lepisto also have NHL experience, but now are strong two-way talents in Europe.
  • Kukkonen and Hietanen may not be household names to most, but are both posting numbers in the strongest European leagues, so cannot be forgotten about.

Finland Defense Analysis – Deployment and Usage

The next table displays the usage of each defender on their respective NHL teams, including their relative ranking on their team in terms of Time On Ice.  Those who are top 3 on their respective teams in any of the disciplines can likely be considered to be highly trusted and valued players by their coach.

This is not a perfect measure by any means — players can be unfairly punished due to the depth on their teams or the way in which their coach manages their ice time — but it does give some indication as to how Finland might be expected to use them.  Click the image to enlarge.

FIN DEF - TOI

Finland Defense Analysis – Underlying Numbers

Let’s use Robert Vollman’s Player Usage Charts to track how players are doing in terms of their possession game, as well as the kind of competition they are taking on.  The following chart displays this information for the Finnish defense.

FIN DEF - PUC

The following table displays each blueliner, their individual Fenwick For Percentages (shot attempts) and PDO numbers (on-ice shooting and save percentages added together, an expression of “luck”), the FF% and PDO numbers for their respective NHL clubs, and their clubs’ NHL Conference rank at the time of writing.

FIN DEF - ADV

GOAL

To evaluate goalies, the number most indicative of actual ability is likely even-strength save percentage.  By removing their numbers on the powerplay or while shorthanded, we remove the wildly fluctuating numbers, year-to-year, of special teams play and can focus instead on the discipline at which the vast majority of each game is played.

FIN GOAL - SV%

CONCLUSION / REVIEW

Image courtesy of telegraph.co.uk.

Finland enjoyed a spectacular tournament, dominating lower-level teams Austria and Norway, before taking overwhelming favourites Canada to overtime in a tight 2-1 game.  The real shocker came in the Quarterfinal however, as they faced hosts Russia and thumped them 3-1 in what was regarded as a lop-sided match-up.

Setting up a mouth-watering Semi-Final with neighbours Sweden, the team narrowly missed out on a berth in the Finals, falling 2-1.  Suomi weren’t done yet, however, firing everything they could at the United States in the Bronze Medal game with captain Teemu Selanne personally putting two in the net in what will be his final Olympic appearance.  A truly wonderful end for a wonderful Olympic athelete, and a fully-deserved medal for the eternally-likable Finns.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Follow Chris on Twitter, and whilst you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk.

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