Going into this Olympic semifinal game between Finland and Sweden, conventional wisdom would say that the Swedes had the advantage. The only thing that could've changed? If the Finns scored first.
After a waved off icing call in the first period, Olli Jokinen put a quick shot on Henrik Lundqvist from a sharp angle that somehow squeaked through the goaltender. Not only had Finland scored the first goal, but they'd done so on a softie. Cue up the defensive system Finland has deployed so well during these Olympics, and there's no chance for Sweden to come back, right?
Not in this rivalry.
Just over five minutes later, with Sweden applying pressure, a beautiful tic-tac-toe play put the puck on Loui Eriksson's stick blade with a wide open net, and he made no mistake in beating Kari Lehtonen, who was in recovery mode trying to scramble over to stop the backdoor play.
Another five minutes pass, and on a Finnish penalty the Swedes continued to work the perimeter until they could open up Erik Karlsson for a one-timer, which just barely beat Lehtonen, deflecting off of his blocker and into the top of the net. Sweden would not look back en route to the 2-1 win.
With the roles reversed. It seemed that the teams switched styles entirely. Finland began to attack with speed, and Sweden went into a defensive shell to protect the lead.
The story of the game could be Teemu Selanne's ironic lack of finish, with the Finnish team, especially during their 8:25 of power play time, seemed to be desperate to set him up for the goal. Selanne had a ton of chances, but only got two of those chances on net, and both were stopped.
For some reason Selanne was double clutching on shots, or fanning on the puck, or just taking that split second too long to release the puck. Perhaps it was a show of age, as the 43 year old legend has finally struggled to put up points this season in the NHL, though he has still put up four points in five games at the Olympics.
The disappointment on Selanne's face as the clock ticked down was heartbreaking for fans of one of the most universally loved players in NHL history, but that shouldn't take away from Sweden's accomplishment.
Sweden lost their captain, Henrik Sedin, before the tournament began with a lingering injury, replacing him with Henrik Zetterberg. One game, one goal, and one win for Zetterberg was all that Sweden would get, as he aggravated a lingering injury in his back against the Czech Republic.
On their third captain of the Olympic games, Nicklas Kronwall has helped to lead a battered Swedish team to the gold medal game, going through their chief hockey rival. That's something special, no matter how it ends for them.