2014 Sochi Semi-Finals Preview

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No. 1 Sweden vs. No. 4 Finland (Friday, 7 am EST)

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The first game of the day will pit Sweden against Finland, a rematch from 2006 that saw Sweden come out victorious, 3-2, to capture its first Gold Medal since 1994.

Sweden defeated Slovenia, 5-0, Wednesday in the quarterfinals, but the game was much closer than the score would show. Sweden led just 1-0 heading into the third before it exploded for four goals, including two from Carl Hagelin, to advance to the semis.

Despite injuries to key players, Sweden hasn’t had much of a scare thus far in the tournament. They’re led by defenseman Erik Karlsson, who has three goals and four assists in four games and is showing why he’s a former Vezina Trophy winner. Sweden would benefit from more goal scoring, and maybe Wednesday’s big third period generated some confidence moving forward.

The story, though, has been Henrik Lundqvist, who has two shutouts and is sporting a .949 save percentage in four games and is looking like the goaltender who captured the Gold eight years ago in Torino. When he’s on like he is now, he’s frustrating and very difficult to beat.

Like Sweden, Finland is dealing with a plethora of injuries themselves, which led many to discount their chances heading into the tournament. They haven’t missed a beat, though, and are gelling as a team and becoming very tough to play against due to their strong defense.They disposed of host country Russia Wednesday with an impressive 3-1 win in which Finland played tough defense and did not allow the opposition to enter their zone easily.

Teemu Selanne has showed that despite being in his 40s, he can still be a force on the ice, and that appears to be having a positive effect on his teammates. He has two goals and two assists in four games and is a plus-3. In net, Tuukka Rask is playing as well as anyone in the tournament and giving his team a chance to win night after night. He’s allowed seven goals on 85 shots for a .918 save percentage in three games.

This could easily come down to a goalie duel, and if so, it’s anyone’s game. Sweden, despite the injuries, still has the better team on paper, but as Finland showed against Russia, could mean little.