Striking stats for Finland
by Lucas AYKROYD|19 MAY 2023
It's been a battle for the Finns to keep the puck out of their net so far, as the defending champs have allowed 12 goals in their first four games in Tampere.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
Finnish goalie Emil Larmi summed up the mood around the host team after the unexpectedly tough 5-3 win over France: “It’s not the perfect start, but I think it’s a great lesson for us. And so far we haven’t lost anything. We haven’t won anything either, so we just want to keep going and getting better.”

Prior to facing Hungary on Friday, the Finns sit fourth in Group A with a modest seven points.

What are some of the standout numbers that define the defending champions’ journey in Tampere so far? We pulled out a few of them to take a closer look.

Rantanen’s Goal Drought

Through four games, Mikko Rantanen is still looking for his first goal (0+4=4),. That’s not what most observers would have predicted for the 26-year-old Colorado Avalanche ace, who scored a career-high 55 goals this season.

Put simply, Rantanen needs to shoot the puck more. With the Avs, he had 306 shots in a full 82-game slate (3.73 shots per game). Here in Tampere, Rantanen has a mere eight shots in four games (2.00 shots per game). That trails both his linemates, Sakari Manninen (3+2=5), who has 11 shots, and Teemu Hartikainen (2+1=3), who has 12 shots.

The latter duo’s chemistry extends beyond last year’s Olympic and World Championship gold medal runs to a three-season partnership with Salavat Yulaev Ufa. It’s not something you want to break up, but it’s a waste if they’re not getting the puck to Rantanen, who was nine shy of Connor McDavid (64 goals) for the NHL goals lead and finished third overall behind David Pastrnak (61 goals).

Jalonen Spreads the Minutes Around Again

If you insist on being the stud defenceman who plays 25 minutes a night, Jukka Jalonen’s Finnish national team is not the place for you.

The head coach, who loves to roll with eight D-men, is making sure nobody gets too tired and everybody gets to play. Two-time Stanley Cup champion Olli Maatta leads all Finnish skaters with an average ice time of 19:22, which doesn’t even rank him in the tournament’s top 30 players.

This is in line with Jalonen’s modus operandi in his other recent gold medal runs.

Offensive blueliner Mikko Lehtonen was Finland’s ice time leader at the 2019 Worlds (17:40) and 2022 Olympics (18:58), while Miro Heiskanen led the way at the 2022 Worlds (20:41). Interestingly, Heiskanen is currently averaging a whopping 28:15 with the Dallas Stars heading into the 2023 Western Conference finals against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Goaltending a Work in Progress

After starting three times, Larmi has posted a 2.29 GAA and 91.6 save percentage. Those are respectable numbers, but not what Jalonen has been accustomed to getting in his IIHF championship runs.

In 2011, starter Petri Vehanen topped the tournament with a 1.24 GAA and 95.4 save percentage. In 2019, Kevin Lankinen’s 1.50 GAA and 94.2 save percentage would likely have earned him Best Goalie honours were it not for Andrei Vasilevski’s excellence.

At the Beijing Olympics, Harri Sateri earned an obscene 1.00 GAA and 96.2 save percentage. And of course, the 2022 Worlds belonged to Jussi Olkinuora, who was named MVP with his 1.11 GAA and 94.8 save percentage.

Olkinuora certainly hasn’t had a banner 2022-23 season, splitting time between the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and the SHL’s Brynas IF. His performance in the 4-3 win over Germany didn’t set the world on fire.

Still, the 32-year-old has historically provided a calming presence between the pipes for Suomi, whereas Larmi’s allowing a goal from the corner on France’s first shot was a nervous moment, to say the least. Despite coming off an amazing championship run with Vaxjo Lakers, Larmi has looked scrambly at times in his IIHF debut.

With Finland facing non-medal contenders in Hungary, Austria, and Denmark to wrap up Group A play, it’ll be challenging for Jalonen to get a bead on exactly what he has in net before the medal round.

Goals-Against Raises a Question Mark

Through four games, Finland has already allowed 12 goals. This is far more than the Finns have surrendered in their runs to gold. In 2011, under the old format with nine games played, they allowed 14 goals. Under the current 10-game format, in 2019, it was 16, and in 2022, it was a mere 13.

Simply put, the hosts must tighten up defensively before the medal round, or their hopes of a golden repeat will be in doubt.