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Scandinavian knights

Swedes, Finns top SI.com's All-Tournament Team

Posted: Sunday February 26, 2006 12:39PM; Updated: Sunday February 26, 2006 12:47PM
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Kimmo Timonen
Kimmo Timonen, who scored Finland's first goal in the gold medal game, is the best NHL defenseman nobody knows.
Al Bello/Getty Images
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Michael Farber picks SI.com's Olympic hockey All-Tournament Team.

G: Antero Niittymaki, Finland: He was the Finns' nominal third stringer, but injuries sidelined Miikka Kiprusoff and Kari Lehtonen. Niittymaki, a co-No. 1 in Philadelphia with Robert Esche, was nearly impregnable until the final, but given the way the dogged Finns bubblewrapped their goalie, he had only slightly more work than the Maytag repairman. Unfortunately, he flinched on Nicklas Lidstrom's blueline blast, the winning goal in the final.

D: Kenny Jonsson, Sweden: The former New York Islanders blueliner returned to a Swedish second division team in his hometown during the lockout and never looked back. In a magical 12 days, he went from playing on a team with a real estate agent, a gardener and other part-timers to Olympic gold medalist. Stunning. Said Mats Sundin, "That must be a pretty good league."

D: Kimmo Timonen, Finland: He is the best NHL defenseman nobody knows, a slick and smart puck-mover who plays for the under-the-radar Nashville Predators. Timonen, a master of the geometry of big ice, played against top lines and quarterbacked the surgical Finnish power play. He scored the first Finnish goal in the final.

C: Saku Koivu, Finland: The Finnish (and Montreal Canadiens) captain was on familiar ice, centering the revitalized Teemu Selanne and Jere Lehtinen, a line that has played together internationally for a decade. Continuity counts. Koivu finished with three goals and eight assists, tied with Selanne for the scoring title. A narrow pick here over Swedin's Sundin, who drew two big penalties against the Finns and assisted on Lidstrom's tournament-winner.

LW: Alexander Ovechkin, Russia: You can only have so many-coming out parties and until his woeful Washington Capitals make the playoffs one of these years, consider the Olympics to be the last for this NHL rookie-of-the-year-in-waiting. He scored five goals and never failed to dazzle. Ovechkin isn't the best player since Bobby Orr, obviously. Only the most exciting. (With apologies to Gilbert Perreault fans.)

RW: Daniel Alfredsson, Sweden: He is the practically perfect player -- smart, tough, skilled and responsible. (Watch for widespread support in the NHL's Hart Trophy voting.) The Ottawa Senators captain, who was not a factor in the final, played on the Swedes' second line with Samuel Pahlsson and P.J. Axelsson, a trio that spent much of the lockout together with Swedish Elite League champion Frolunda.

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