COLOGNE – Jack Johnson has a few words of caution for anyone who likes living in the past.
“I don’t think that means anything to this tournament,” said Johnson, the captain of Team USA at the 2010 IIHF World Championship.
Johnson was referring to the 6-1 win by the United States over Finland in the semi-finals of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in February. Team USA lost 2-1 in overtime to Canada in the gold medal game and Johnson is the only member of the silver medal team that is playing in the World Championship.
The United States and Finland cross paths tonight in a must-win game for both teams and Johnson isn’t buying into the theory that the U.S. team has the edge because of what happened less than three months ago.
“A lot of those players are not here. They are two different teams and it is two different tournaments, two different scenarios,’’ he said.
But if there was one thing Team USA would like to see repeated it’s the firepower they unloaded on the Finns in Vancouver when they scored six times in the first period.
The Finland-USA game features opponents who have each scored two goals in as many games.
Finland lost 4-1 to upstart Denmark and then beat Germany 1-0. The U.S. lost 2-1 to Germany and 2-1 to Denmark and both games were in overtime.
Finland has three points and has a one-point lead on the United States, and the easiest way for the U.S. to avoid the embarrassment of dropping to the relegation round is to come away with a win.
The American players are acutely aware of what is at stake, and what part of their game has gone missing.
“I do not think we have played poorly,” said Johnson. “We are not scoring on our opportunities. The Finns are a good team and they have always been a good team. It is tough to face them when it is a game you have to win but that is the way it is. We have to find a way to score more goals.”
No one on the USA roster was offering any excuses for the fact their hands have gone stone cold. The Americans are using a younger group, and there isn't a lot of proven scorers in the line-up.
Team USA’s David Moss nixed the notion of the players being unfamiliar with each other.
“We are all high enough level players that we should be able to mesh quicker,” said Moss. “But we have one game and if we win that game, we are in the next round and that is how we are looking at it.”
“You want to win and it is frustrating when you are not on the winning side. But still we expect to win the next game.”
As for the Finns, they share the same frustrations the U.S. is having around the net. And they are under the same pressure.
"We've had problem scoring goals, obviously, we've scored only two goals," said goalie Pekka Rinne, who will be the back-up in the game against Team USA. "We have to work on our power play, small things. We've had chances."
"They have a young team with dangerous players, and good defencemen, like Jack Johnson. But we can beat them."
Coach Jukka Jalonen was asked about starting Petri Vehanen in net over Rinne, who would be more familiar with the Americans because he plays in the NHL.
"Both Petri Vehanen and Pekka Rinne are great goalies but Vehanen earned the start with his play against Germany," he said. "I'd always like to have a designated starter but sometimes you have to reconsider things."