In our last episode, we learned about the overtime heroics of Niklas Hagman in 1998. What I left out of that story was that the coach of the Finnish team in 1998 was Hannu Kapanen, Kasperi Kapanen's grandfather. He was there today to watch his grandson try to repeat as a Finnish champion.
Russian coach Valeri Bragin put Ilya Samsonov in net for the semifinal, surprising many, and he won the game for them. In another somewhat surprising move, Alexander Georgiev, who plays in the Finnish Liiga, got the start against Finland to try to win it all. Kaapo Kähkönen was in net again for Finland.
The crowd in Hartwall was deafening, roaring and chanting nonstop for the first 4 minutes and 50 seconds. Finland had the first scoring chance and ran the shots up to 5-0. But then Kähkönen shot the puck way over the glass on a poorly executed clearing attempt, and the Russians had a power play.
This was the first chance to see the fairly tepid Russian power play that has a very low shot rate against the extremely poor Finnish penalty kill. The result was a perfect set up pass from Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia Flyers prospect) that Vladislav Kamenev (Milwaukee Predators) fired straight into the net.
Less than 5 minutes later, the Finns took a holding penalty, and Russia kept the cycle going forever on the 6 on 5, but never shot the puck. They had 2 shots on the power play proper, and despite the earlier goal, the power play is the closest thing to a Russian weakness.
Russian came right back at even strength with a good chance, and the shots favoured Russia 10-7. Russia was out-muscling the Finns, winning puck battles and stripping the puck off of Finnish sticks seemingly at will.
Finland got stuck chasing the play, and their powerhouse top line was not getting anything going. Kasperi Kapanen plucked the puck out of the neutral zone and roared in to create some chances.
Maxim Lazarev answered with a rush of his own.
Giving up 4min of power play time to the Russians was a big mistake for Finland, but Russia topped it with an offensive zone penalty for hooking. Russia got control of the puck right off the faceoff and took off on a short-handed rush. The Russian forward fell, and Finland turned around with a 5-on-3 opportunity.
They didn't let a little thing like that stop them from carefully and slowly setting up their power play, giving up the extra advantage. Russia got a second short-handed rush, and the strong Finnish power play had fizzled.
At the very end of the first, the Finnish top line finally got some offensive zone time, but they tried to be too clever, dropping the puck back, trying to deke and dangle, and the Russians broke that up like they were working security at the high school dance.
Shots were 13-9 for Russia after the first 20 minutes.
The second period opened up with bodies getting dropped behind nets and the whistles in the pockets for the refs. The crowd was screaming over every collision, but it wasn't until the Finnish fourth line got hemmed in their own end that Yevgeni Svechnikov was called on a very foolish trip.
The Russians almost immediately got a short-handed breakaway on the Finnish power play. The first power play unit, which is primarily the Aho-Puljujärvi-Laine line failed to ever get set up. The second unit, which is Kapanen-Rantanen-Hintz, got set up with only 20 seconds left. Another damp squib.
The Aho line continued to have trouble penetrating the offensive zone, but the Kapanen line had some good pressure going. The fourth line came out after Kapanen's group went off and drew another penalty.
Again the first unit had their setup broken up again and again, getting only one shot off. The second unit did much better, and Kasperi Kapanen whiffed it wide on a wide open net, blowing the best chance to tie the game to that point.
It seemed to me like it was time to flip the power play units.
In the second half of the period, Finland cranked up the pressure, and the Aho line had some extensive zone time for the first time. They kept the pressure on, the Rantanen line was good, and then Kapanen group came out and kept the Russians penned in, unable to do get any new bodies on the ice with the long change, but Georgiev turned everything aside.
Shots had turned to Finland's favour, and the crowd was in full lion roar.
Georgiev kept the door shut. Russia had only 2 shots on goal in the period, and the shot on goal total was 18-15 Finland at the end of 40 minutes, but the score was still 1-0 Russia.
The third period began and right off the drop, Finland's top line showed they were not out of the game. 24 seconds in, Laine put it in the net, and the game was tied. The crowd was in it, bigger and louder than ever.
Georgiev made a great save on Antti Kalapudas and then the Russians took it up ice on a rush and Andrei Svetlakov put the Russians back up 2-1.
The Finns drove the play with the top line leading the way. They'd struggled in the semis and in the first part of the final after dominating the tournament, but they were back, good as ever.
The play was fast and hard, with both sides getting some offensive zone time. Ivan Provorov took a holding penalty in the offensive zone, and here we go again with the Finnish power play.
The first unit was high off their even strength success, but their power play went like all the others—their set up was broken up again and again. The second unit came out and looked better, but they couldn't convert.
They got another chance three minutes later. The Russian defence was breaking down, and they were taking penalties where before they'd just taken the puck and skated off.
The power play looked familiar, the first unit not very successful, but this time when the second unit got set up they scored. Mikko Rantanen (San Antonio Rampage) put it in off a great pass from Vili Saarijärvi. Something blew up just as the goal was scored and Kamenev got into an argument with the ref. It ended how those usual do with Kamenev getting a slew of misconduct minutes.
Russia had two minutes to overcome this latest adversity. And they'd done that once already against Denmark. They got set up, pulled Georgiev, put the extra man out there and got their cycle going. There was a mad scramble in front of the net, and Andrei Svetlakov tied the game with 6 seconds left on the clock by tipping a Provorov rocket.
The Russians were going to overtime without their best centre in Kamenev who had received a game misconduct. The Finns were going with the hopes and dreams of the entire arena willing them to victory.
What they got was Kappy!!!!!
A minute and a half in, the Finns got it going quickly and Kapanen kept the puck, swung around behind the net and got a beautiful wraparound goal, a goal wrapped in gold.
Finland wins gold in OT pic.twitter.com/fkmHPGoD4x— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 5, 2016
Final score: 4-3 Finland.
Wednesday is a holiday in Finland, not Kasperi day, but it should be. So the celebrating can go on for a long time.
My thoughts on Kapanen on this tournament:
Look at these happy Finns pic.twitter.com/JuuwuouykR— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 5, 2016
He was solid in every game. It didn't show up on the scoreboard at first, but who cares about that now? He was strong on the puck, drove play, and he hesitated too damn much on his shots.
When he's back in Toronto, and the hangover has worn off, I hope to see him scoring up a storm with the Marlies. He was better in Finland than Mikko Rantanen, who is scoring in the AHL at a rate to nearly equal William Nylander. So what can Kapanen do? Let's wait and see.