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Kekalainen: Underdog Finns ‘will bite everybody’s ankles and not let go’ at Olympics

Feb 4, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

Jarmo Kekalainen Getty Images

If you’re wondering about Finland’s approach to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, check out what assistant GM Jarmo Kekalainen had to say on Sportsnet’s Fan 590 radio today.

“It’ll be all about team. That’s our strength and we love to be the underdog,” Kekalainen explained. “We’re going to bite everybody’s ankles and not let go — that’s the only way we’re going to be successful.”

Though they like to fancy themselves underdogs, the Finns have been perennial medal contenders since NHL players began competing in the Olympics in 1998, capturing silver in ’98 and 2006 and bronze in 2010. At the upcoming ’14 tournament, the team will lean heavily on a number of players that’ve achieved success in past competitions, as Finland boasts one of the oldest and most-experienced rosters, featuring Teemu Selanne (43 years old), Sami Salo (39), Kimmo Timonen (38) and Olli Jokinen (35).

In terms of grit and scrappiness, the likes of veterans Tuomo Ruutu and Mikko Koivu will be heavily leaned-upon, though the latter’s participation is in question as he recovers from knee surgery.

This isn’t to say, however, that the Finns don’t have any youth coming through the ranks. Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh’s young star defenseman, and Florida’s leading scorer Aleksander Barkov both made the team despite being 19 and 18, respectively. Given their success at the NHL level this season, both should play prominent roles in Sochi.

And then, of course, there’s the goaltending.

Finland boasts arguably the greatest depth in the world at the position as Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen made the cut for the Winter Games. Considering the likes of Pekka Rinne (injured), Karri Ramo, Antti Raanta and Nicklas Backstrom were left off the team is evidence to just how much depth the Finns have in goal.

Kekalainen acknowledged its one of his team’s great assets.

“We have three great goaltenders,” he explained. “All have proven themselves in the NHL. It’s a big strength for our team.”

  1. rbbbaron - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    What’s the latest on Rinne?

    • Clare Austin - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:58 PM

      heard this morning he was on ice, still not doing full workouts. Of course, he has yet to practice with the team.

  2. flyerspsu - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    Finland has no doubt a lot of talent and also 4 of the best goalies in the world, but right now they are in the phase where their veterans are well past their prime and their younger guys are still too young and inexperienced

    they could do some damage but i dont seem them medaling

  3. AppealToReason - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    Its hard to ever count out the smaller countries. They always play above the sum of their parts at these things. Raise your hand if you had the Fins vs the Slovaks finishing 3rd and 4th in 2010?

  4. imgoingtowichita - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    Luckily for the opponents only one goalie can take the net each game.

  5. lowenni - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    I think they’re going to be the 2010 US team of this tournament. Great goaltending and hardworking, two-way play. If Rask or Niemi or whichever one of their great options in net stands on their head anything could happen.

  6. georgejarkko - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:40 PM

    Here is why you can NEVER count the Finns out:

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1614)
  2. P. Kane (1581)
  3. M. Richards (1358)
  4. P. Datsyuk (1203)
  5. N. Backstrom (1091)