USA Vs. Finland, Olympic Hockey Semifinal Preview: Winner Plays For Gold

Today's game will be broadcast live on NBC in all four time zones. The puck drops at 3 PM ET / 12 PM PT. NBCOlympics.com has a stream if you're stuck at work.

Everybody wants it to happen, a gold medal game between Canada and the United States. It's this... close... to happening, too, but if the Americans over look a very, very strong Finland team, they'll be playing for bronze tomorrow night instead of gold on Sunday.

The US team has won all four games they've played in these Olympics, but none of that matters as of now. If they lose today, their shot at gold is gone. The Finns, meanwhile, have been through this before. They played for gold in 2006 in Torino before losing to Sweden and taking home silver. You can be sure they'll be hungrier this time around, knowing how close they were last time. Many of the '06 silver medalists are still playing on the team in these Olympics.

The one clear advantage that the Americans have against Finland is that they've played like a team this entire tournament. They attack as a team, they defend as a team, and unlike the rest of the all-star rosters put together for this tournament, the USA actually looks like a cohesive group when they're clicking at all cylinders.

Finland plays a very up-tempo offensive style, complete with a lot of puck movement in the offensive zone. To counter that, the Americans will need to practice good positioning, but most of all, they'll have to play physical. That's something that fits right into the heads of the talent they have on their blueline, with guys like Tim Gleason and Jack Johnson perfectly happy to grind a win out along the boards.

Miikka Kiprusoff is a major factor in the Finnish goal, but Ryan Miller certainly has the ability to match him at the other end. Finland's defense corps, led by Kimmo Timonen and Joni Pitkanen, could be the best in the tournament. To win, the USA is going to have to be clicking offensively as well on all four lines. They'll need scoring from the big guns, like Zach Parise and Patrick Kane, as well as the secondary guys like Ryan Kesler and Bobby Ryan.

This team that clearly dictates the pace of this one, whether it's the Finns with their high-flying offense or the Americans with theirhard-nosed aggressiveness.

More: SB Nation’s full coverage of the Winter Olympics and the 2010 Winter Olympics Medal Count Tracker.

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