Jussi Jokinen (above) collected the second Olympic medal of his career last week when Finland defeated the United States, 5-0, in the bronze medal game at Sochi.
Jokinen was also a member of Finland's silver medal-winning squad in 2006 at Torino.
While the level of success might be the most obvious difference in Jokinen's Olympic experiences between 2006 and 2014, the style of play might be the more significant.
This year's Olympic tournament saw an average of 4.70 goals per game while played on a larger ice surface. The 2006 tournament, also played on IIHF rinks which are 100 feet across, saw an average of 5.42 goals per game.
In contrast, the 2010 tournament played on an NHL-sized rink (85 feet across) at Vancouver had a robust 6.00 goals per game. The 2002 tournament (IIHF rink) played in Salt Lake City had saw slighty more goals per game at 6.09.
(As explained last week in this Q&A with James Neal, while the "bigger ice" is wider, the attacking zones are smaller.)
Why was there such a drop? Earlier today, Jokinen offered some thoughts:
Where you surprised there was a drop in goals in this tournament?
"Maybe a little but. I was able to play during the lockout in the Finish league [Liiga] and I think the game has changed a lot on the bigger ice. I think it’s easier to play defense on the bigger ice. It’s always easier to play defense than score goals. I wasn’t too surprised. Personally, I like playing the smaller ice more. There’s more speed. There’s more scoring chances and more things happen."
Has there been a change in how teams play defense on the larger ice?
"I feel the game has changed so much on the bigger ice. When I got here [to the NHL] in 2005, nine years ago, I thought the game was still pretty similar. I feel right now that it’s kind of like two different sports. The game is getting so much different on the bigger ice."
The conventional wisdom was bigger ice leads to bigger offensive totals. This tournament flew in the face of that notion.
"For some reason, it feels on the bigger ice, you cover the middle and defending on the bigger ice is easier. You just lock up the front of the net, take care of the rebounds and you goalie does the rest. I think it used to be like that, that bigger ice had more goal but it’s even opposite right now. There’s less amounts of goals on the bigger ice."
Do coaches instruct players different on how to defend on the bigger ice compared to eight years ago?
"I think all the coaches are always are looking for the teams to look for better defense. It’s always easier to play better defense than to score goals. The on the other hand, if you look with Finland… the kind of team we had there, if you want to win a medal, if you want beat Canada, you can’t go like that [being aggressive offensively]. It’s not going to be fun for us if we play like that. If we want to be successful, that’s the only way [being tight defensively] we can if we want to beat Canada."
Did Finland play as tight defensively in 2006 when it won silver as it did this year?
"Not that much. Obviously, it’s always that team defense, teamwork has always been one of our keys. We had bigger names and more offensive fire power and all of our stars were healthier. [This tournament], one of our keys was having four players under the puck all the time. Usually, you hear coaches who want three guys under the puck all the time but we wanted to have four guys always. When you have four guys under the puck, it’s tough to the other team to score goals. Our coaching staff had done a great job of figuring way to get the system for us. I think that was the right system for our team in that tournament to be as successful as we can."
You say you prefer playing on a smaller rink than the larger rink.
"Yeah. You watch the games, more things are happening. It’s fast. There’s more scoring chances and stuff like that. Olympics is usually played on the bigger ice. I don’t have anything against playing on the bigger ice but I feel like that way. I feel a lot of players feel that way too, that the game is better on the smaller ice."
Even European players prefer smaller rinks? Or is nationality irrelevant in this case?
"I would think so. Players in Europe and players here, I feel that’s the common thing. The game is better on smaller ice. Obviously, maybe on bigger ice you have less concussions and stuff like that. So obviously that’s a problem [with North American ice]. We need to try to get as good of care as we can on smaller ice and get the game safer. If you can do that, I feel the game is safer on smaller ice."
(Photo: Martin Rose/Getty Images)