Mikael Granlund (left) of Finland and Matthias Trattnig of Austria battle for the puckFinland raised few eyebrows with its 8—4 romp over Austria in its opener on Sochi ice, although four conceded goals do raise some questions about the team's defensive performance. Nevertheless, the fact that several players got on the scoreboard should prove a confidence boost for the entire team going forward.

Team captain Teemu Selänne, however, was unable to prove his fitness, after being forced to leave the rink in the first period with a neck injury. The captain has reportedly been passed fit to face Norway in Finland's second game of the group stage on Friday evening.

Playing alongside Selänne, Mikael Granlund impressed with his work rate and puck-handling skills, testing the opposition's goaltender a number of times and finding the back of the net twice. The prodigy led by example and his solid performance was reminiscent of last year's IIHF World Championships in Stockholm.

In his club side in Minnesota, Granlund has deputised for the injured Mikko Koivu and in the days leading up to the Sochi Olympics played alongside Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. Now, all signs indicate that he has pulled on the Finland jersey brimming with confidence.

With his delightful passing, Granlund managed to fashion three opportunities for Selänne before the veteran was forced to leave the rink, breaking up the intriguing first forward line – referred to as the Huey, Dewey and Uncle Scrooge line in the Finnish media.

Although it remains premature to excessively highlight Granlund's performance against an Austrian side that allowed him time and space on the puck, Granlund's composure, vision and creativity all indicate that the number 64 has arrived in Sochi in top form. The forthcoming games against Canada and Norway, however, are bound to prove sterner tests for the young man, as well as for the entire team.

“We have to improve game after game in this tournament. There is no question about that,” Granlund duly stressed.

Heikki Miettinen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Kaisa Rautaheimo / HS