Finland's tournament prospects have improved along with the play of Pekka Rinne.
After an early season injury, Pekka Rinne is back in form and Finland is the direct beneficiary. Despite missing most of the season with a hip injury and then subsequent complications because of surgery, Rinne accepted the opportunity to represent Finland. Now after three consecutive wins, Rinne has his team in playoff contention at the 2014 World Championships.
“We are playing Finnish hockey again,” said Rinne after Finland’s shootout victory over Switzerland. “The first couple of games to start the tournament were disappointing but with three wins in a row, things are coming together.”
The tournament certainly did not start out as the Finns might have hoped. A 3-2 opening night loss to Latvia did not sit well.
After the game and exiting the ice, a visibly upset Rinne broke his stick out of frustration. Captain Olli Jokinen spoke of the need to get everyone on the same page and playing as a team.
Rinne sat the next game- a 4-2 loss to Russia- but has started all three of Finland’s wins since then. There has been marked improvement in the team’s overall effort.
“We have a young team that plays hard and defends hard.” Rinne said. “We were a little tired after back-to-back games you could tell Switzerland was still coming strong late in the game and we were a bit tired, but we managed to pull it off in the shootout.”
The shootout was a duel between goaltenders. Rinne and Swiss goaltender Reto Berra put on an exhibition until Iiro Pakarinen scored in the fifth round. Until that score neither goaltender conceded a goal in the shootout.
Swiss forward Damien Brunner came the closest to scoring but an arm save that prevented a goal.
“I thought I had it,” said Rinne. “In most situations I score on that but he’s a world class goaltender and that makes the difference. He’s been exceptional for his team here in Minsk.”
In October he suffered a hip injury that kept him out until March. Now two months since returning, Rinne says he’s fully recovered, healthy and enjoying his time as Finland’s starting goaltender.
Rinne is playing some of his finest hockey at the moment. Before Switzerland’s Reto Suri scored in the third, Rinne had a streak of 169:35 without a goal being scored against him.
As Rinne goes so too will Finland’s hopes of advancing. Defenseman Jere Karalahti put it best:
“Everybody knows he is one of the best goalies in the world. He missed so much of the season and playing really good for us. He's the big reason we have a chance every night.”