Today marks the opening of the 2021 World Juniors tournament, and Finland will get their first shot at showing their hockey prowess at 6 pm ET against Germany, who placed 5th at last year’s tournament. The Finnish Team will need to dominate at an early start and press into Germany’s side of the ice if they want to control and dictate the outcome of this game. I expect Lundell will be showing off his skills into this game, leading his team as the captain to a win. Look for Lundell to be pushing for control of the puck on both ends of the puck. Unfortunately, Germany will only be playing with 14 skaters, as COVID testing has taken a third of their team out of the tournament. Fortunately, Germany will have two of their best players on the ice tonight; that being Tim Stuetzle, a third overall pick by the Ottawa Senators in the 2020 draft, and John-Jason Peterka, a 34th overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2020 draft. These two will be the only real worry for Team Finland, however, if they are given too much leeway and are allowed to play their style of hockey, it will be a long day for Finland.
Finland’s strongest asset coming into this tournament will be their offense. With Anton Lundell at the helm, we should see strong shifts whenever he is on the ice. Another name to remember for this tournament will be Brad Lambert, a 17 year-old kid who could see himself going top 3 in the 2022 NHL draft. He has a lot to prove and a lot to show teams why his future should be invested with them. I would expect the puck to be played on Germany’s side of the ice for the largest portion of the game.
Aside from losing a few players this year, the newer faces and the returning players will be a tough egg to crack. Leading the defense will be Ville Heinola, a former first rounder who has some NHL experience with the Winnipeg Jets. I would expect him to be pushing into the offensive zone, as he is a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ice. Topi Niemela is another aspect of Finland’s defensive game, who was an important factor in the preliminary game and will look to shutdown their zone against Germany. With Lundell being a menace on both sides of the ice as well, it could be a long day for Germany’s undermanned team.
With the lose of 2 out the 3 goalies from last tournament, this could be Finland’s weakest area on the ice. In the preliminary game, rebounds and second chances were a big factor in Team USA’s 3 goal victory. However, with Germany so undermanned due to COVID, I do not believe that we will see the true testing out of Team Finland’s goalies today. Finland’s trio of goalies are Joel Blomqvist, Kari Piiroinen, and Roope Taponen, and I believe we will se Blomqvist in between the pipes for the start of the game.
Today’s opening game for Finland should not be a trial, but more of a warm-up due to the unfortunate circumstances of Germany’s team. However, Finland will need to come out strong and decisive to show the rest of the teams in the tournament why they are a team to be considered dangerous and a team that can make their way to a gold medal game if they want to. I expect the game to end in a 3-1 win for Finland today, but I would not be surprised if we see more pucks hit the back of the net for Team Finland. Check back after the game for my thoughts and updates of the Finland vs Germany game.
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