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World Cup Of Hockey Preview: Finland’s Curious Crease

World Cup Of Hockey Preview: Finland’s Curious Crease

As the hockey world prepares for the return of the World Cup of Hockey, the staff at InGoal Magazine will take a closer look at the goaltending situation for all eight teams, including likely starters and style of play leading into the pre-tournament exhibition games. We started with the Czech Republic, then Team Europe, and Team North America, and today we take a closer look at Finland:

For decades now the Finns have been known to produce goaltenders.

They decided back in the 1980s that for a small country (Finland has a population of just over 5 million, about the same size as the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area), goaltending could be the great equalizer in international competition. So they developed a systematic approach to teaching the position and it has produced some of the top goaltenders in the world in recent years.

Tuukka Rask could carry the bulk of the load for Finland in the World Cup in Toronto.

Tuukka Rask could carry the bulk of the load for Finland in the World Cup in Toronto.

This is why it’s strange to see a team known for its gifts in net to come into the World Cup with a group of goalies that is, overall, somewhat less than extraordinary: Mikko Koskinen, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne. Their average age is 30 and their average save percentage in 2015-16 was .913. Rask and Rinne continue to have strong reputations in Finland and they remain among the top Finnish netminders in the NHL, even as their stars dim somewhat.

It seems a little strange, however, that the Finnish managers chose not to add a young emerging player such as Joonas Korpisalo, who stepped into the Columbus Blue Jackets net last season when Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney both went down to injury. Or perhaps Juuse Saros, who backed up Koskinen in Minsk in May and came away from it without giving up a single goal. Either of these two young goalies could have benefited from more international experience.

Tuukka Rask

 Games Played SV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season64.915.926.77131-22-6

The Finns being the Finns, it’s not clear going in who the starter will be. Rask seems the sensible choice, at least from a North American perspective. He has the strongest performance of any Finnish netminder in the NHL over the past three years, even if it hasn’t returned to the lofty heights he attained between 2011 and 2014.

Pekka Rinne

 Games PlayedSV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season66.908.920.75234-21-9
Pekka Rinne will need to prove himself to get ice time at the World Cup.

Pekka Rinne will need to prove himself to get ice time at the World Cup.

Rinne, on the other hand, has struggled to keep up since a hip issue in 2012-13 led to surgery which led to a post-surgical infection in 2013-14. This past season was his worst full season in the league and he’s now 33 years old. Quite simply, despite his stellar performances in the IIHF World Championships in 2014 and 2015, there’s no knowing exactly what to expect from him going forward. It would be foolish to think that the questions surrounding him are answerable until he actually gets on the ice and plays games.

See Rinne’s WCoH mask here

Mikko Koskinen

 Games PlayedSV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season41.915(no data available)(no data available)20-18-0

Of course, anything can happen in a short tournament, and in May, Koskinen essentially played his way into this opportunity with a medal-winning performance at the IIHF World Championships. In eight games there, he posted a .947 save percentage, earning Top Goalkeeper honors and a spot on the tournament All Star Team. While it seems as though Rask is the safest bet for starting, don’t count Koskinen out of the chase. He’s got the confidence of the coaching staff and recent successes to his name.

There is one benefit to these three particular choices. They all play a typically energetic and challenging style, with active hands and aggressive depth choices. Moving from one goalie to another might be easier if there are fewer adjustments for the defense to make.

Check out Koskinen’s WCoH mask here

About The Author

Clare Austin

Clare Austin is a reluctant "stats nerd" living in Nashville, where she has never worn a cowboy hat or boots.

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