Lions and World Cup number one star Mikko Rantainen understands the criticism directed at him.
You can’t start a debate about the most famous star player of World Cup domestic games. The title belongs to Lions’ number one striker Mikko Rantainen.
The 26-year-old Colorado Avalanche superstar is the only player in the World Cup to break the magic mark of 50 goals and 100 points this NHL season.
Against this backdrop, Rantanen’s WC tournament has got off to a rough start. After four matches, Rantanen collected 0+4 performances on the sidelines of the first series.
Rantanen understands critical voices.
– Obviously, you hear that, but the whole time I feel good and my body feels good. Now all you have to do is put the puck in the backpack, but you shouldn’t start thinking too much about it, Rantanen said.
I didn’t come here to score goals, I came here to win matches. The most important games start next week. Those games are where I personally focus the most. Yes, those goals will come if they are to come. If it doesn’t come, we will do other things.
What has surprised you the most in the World Cup so far?
Germany and France showed that such small countries play very well nowadays. Last time I was at the Games, we beat Latvia 9-0 among others. There really aren’t any games like that anymore. For example, France defended and fought really well, and the team has a lot of smart guys who skate well, praises Rantanen.
– On paper, Finland-France looks like 7-0 for Finland, but it is no longer the case. There are good players there too. Levels have risen in Europe. A bit like the NHL, except today there is more skill on each team.
Rantainen plays for Legion in the top league alongside Sakari Manninen and Teemu Hartikainen. There are top-class players in the pile, but the real cannon of the trio is still in the pipeline.
Glimpses of series change have been seen in the media. Rantas’ teammate from Colorado, Artturi Lehkonen, also gave his two cents in the heated debate demanding Rantas and Kapo Kako be on the same chain.
– Well, this kind of thing has been thrown around. “Arcy” is a good friend of both of us, who would probably like to see me and Capo in the same series for the same reason, but coaching makes the decision. If you want to develop chemistry, it takes more than four games, Rantanen says.
Read more: Finnish NHL star to change Lions lineup – replaces Mikko Rantanen in this series
Manninen and Hartikainen have played together for a long time. While playing with the pair, Rantanen noticed little things in the game that still needed getting used to.
He is very good at corner play. Manninen does not hold the puck for too long, but quickly throws the puck to Hartikainen in the back of the goal. This is where the game begins. I try to improve myself, so that I am more free at the right time, says Rantanen.
All three Legioni’s interior points can be found at the top of the exchange. Maninin has achieved 3+2 power and Hartikainen has achieved 2+1 power.
So the result is in, but looking at the positions and management there could be a huge balance in the stack. Expectations are skyrocketing especially from Rantanen.
– I feel better all the time. Now it would be better to focus on what they want to do with the puck. Finally, “Hersky” is really good at protecting the puck. We could have scored a few more goals in the last game as well, says Rantanen.
Ratanen has scored goals in two matches. The Rising Man opened his scoring account with two assists in the second game of the tournament against Germany.
Against France, Rantanen scored 0+2. Both scores came under special circumstances.
– We get plenty of playing time, but we still have to watch tape to see where we can be dangerous as a series and even more so as individuals. We get a chance to spin for 45 seconds in the area, but sometimes we just don’t hit the spot. Rantanen insists we have to get better at it.
Rantanen, who plays in Legion after a five-year break, admits that returning to Legion has had its own adjustment period.
Besides the chain friends, it takes some time to get used to the size of the rink and the different styles of play. The way the Lions and Colorado play are vastly different.
– In a smaller rink, we go higher and apply pressure, which I love. Trapp is also played more in the NHL. A little more puck control here. Rantanen compares, in larger rinks, the distances are longer, so naturally, here we prefer to pull on the trap rather than go on it.
– The first game took some getting used to. I started applying pressure and saw that no one else was following. I was at the wrong place. Sometimes when we have the puck, in some situations I go up really fast and get on my feet after a fumbled pass.
The way the Lions play, Rantanen has slowly gotten the better of you.
– Now I have become more restrained and I am looking for less speed. That way I can catch the puck better.
Lions head coach Jukka Jalonen is not at all worried about the performance of his first team. According to Jalonen, the first series has taken targets off the conveyor belt.
– For example, in the first round against Sweden the score is 10-0. Now it was 6-1 for sure (against France). Totally better in terms of stats, but not efficiency. It will come at some point, Jalonen said after Wednesday’s game.
It is clear that the top players – especially Rantes – expected to see more results.
– I feel better all the time. Fortunately, we continue in the same areas, and they haven’t been replaced. The chemistry is getting better all the time. There have only been four games here. I believe this will improve our game even more, says Rantanen.