Team Russia beat Team Austria 4-0 in the first game of the qualifying round for the quarterfinals of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in men's hockey Tuesday, February 18. This sets up a date Wednesday with Team Finland that includes Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks.
The pictured list of reasons the Finns will take this game are not the only ones there are, but they are the most significant. There are certainly things that will boost the Russians, too.
Obviously the home crowd helps. Even just being with family and back in their home they can only visit once in most years is a boost.
Of course, Finland is technically the home team and gets the advantages in the circle and matching lines. That is necessary considering the best scoring lines in the world play for Russia—the most significant advantage of the hosts.
These nations have been enemies for generations. It was long-standing enough during World War II for the Finns to joining with the Axis forces because the Soviet Union was among the allies. While the natural rivalry goes both ways, it more intense for a nation that would love to knock Russia out on its own ice.
There are simply more cards stacked against Team Russia than towards it in this game. Team Finland will rally around Teemu Selanne to get an early need then play suffocating defense. The fact that Niemi will not play a meaningful minute of the Sochi Olympics speaks to the depth in net and ability to limit opposing scores.
By the end of the game, the tired Russian scoring lines start to press and grip their sticks. The Finns take advantage of that and their pictured advantages, scoring a necessary insurance goal due to a final-minute goal allowed facing an extra attacker: 3-2 Finland.