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Team Finland

Team Finland optimistic about future

Young players learned tough lessons scoring one goal at World Cup

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

TORONTO -- For Team Finland, the World Cup of Hockey 2016 was over almost as soon as it started.

Yes, Team Finland's tournament officially ended Thursday with a 3-0 loss to Team Russia at Air Canada Centre in a game that had no meaning for it. But it figuratively might have ended after 35 minutes of its first game, four nights ago, against Team North America.

Team Finland allowed four goals in the first 34:17 before losing 4-1. It was a knockout blow from which there proved to be no recovery.

"The start was the biggest problem, I think," Team Finland goaltender Tuukka Rask said Thursday. "We started the first game and we couldn't handle the young guys."

It snowballed from there.

In a must-win against Team Sweden two nights later, Team Finland played its best game of the tournament but lost 2-0, mainly because of Team Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. On Thursday, it was more of the same; Team Finland could not get its offense in gear against Team Russia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 21 saves.

"It's disappointing, feels like it's over so quickly," said Team Finland forward Teuvo Teravainen, who was scratched for the first game. "I played two games and we didn't even score a goal. Pretty tight games, we just couldn't score. We had a chance to win [against] Sweden and Russia but just couldn't do it."

Team Finland managed 82 shots on goal; 81 of them failed in their purpose. Valtteri Filppula scored its only goal with 4:07 left it its first game.

"If you can't score and it gets in your head, it's difficult to win," Rask said. "Sometimes you just need that one goal to get the lead and play with the lead to kind of open things up. We couldn't do that and that's it."

Video: NAT@FIN: Filppula puts loose puck past Murray in 3rd

Team Finland never led and rarely played from an even position. It trailed for 54:57 of the game against Team North America, it trailed for 30:03 against Team Sweden, and it trailed for 36:18 against Team Russia.

Each player on Team Finland had a reason for the goals not coming. Some praised the defense of the opposition. Others talked about the caliber of goalies faced. Others bemoaned the lack of puck luck.

"We just couldn't get pucks in," top-line center Aleksander Barkov said. "Of course, if you don't score, you can't win the games, and I think it's the biggest thing in hockey. You have to score."

Part of the problem for Team Finland was that it is a team in transition. Many of the veteran players synonymous with the program have retired. In their place are young, promising players.

Six of the seven defensemen in this tournament are not yet 26 years old. Perhaps the two most important -- Rasmus Ristolainen and Olli Maatta -- are not yet 23. Team Finland's top line was as green as any in the tournament, including 23-and-younger Team North America. Barkov, 21, was the oldest player on the top line and the only one with NHL experience (Florida Panthers). Patrik Laine, 18, and Sebastian Aho, 19, have not yet played in the NHL. None of those three had a point in the tournament.

Video: FIN@RUS: Rask fights off Tarasenko's shot

It was a bitter introduction to best-on-best hockey for the younger players on Team Finland, but it was a valuable lesson, one that will serve it well in future tournaments.

"We have some young guys coming in, especially on defense," Rask said. "I thought the guys handled it really well. It's becoming a young man's game and we have some young guys coming up and the future looks bright. Hopefully, the next tournament is a different outcome."

The future, not the immediate past, has become the focus.

"It would be interesting to see the exact same team, for example, in the Olympics in 2018," coach Lauri Marjamaki said. "The future seems bright, nevertheless, for Team Finland."

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