POSTGAME: Europe puts up a good fight, but Canada comes out on top

Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY SPORTS

Nobody expected Team Europe to get as far as they did. Pockets of players had played together before, on their own international teams, on professional teams, but there was never much of a chemistry building period for this group. That didn’t matter, though, as they took a shorter warm-up camp than most, with a rougher start than all, and turned it into a Cinderella run all the way to the World Cup of Hockey Final.

There wasn’t much of a shot given to them there, either. Nobody thought they stood a chance against Canada, the odds-on favourite from start to finish. To the surprise of many, they put up a very good fight. Ultimately, though, the Red and White hockey giant proved just too powerful to break through, even for a game.

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Looking to at least bring the series to a winner-take-all, the Europeans came out even stronger than they did in the first matchup. They took five of the game’s first six shots, outshot (but didn’t out attempt) the Canadians in the first twenty, and to the shock of the crowd, actually scored the game’s first goal. Franz Neilsen carried the puck in with confidence and sent it back to a trailing Andrej Sekera, who saw the towering 6’9 Zdeno Chara sneak in on the left side. The puck was sent in his direction and made no mistake in beating Carey Price.

Nobody was overly concerned at this point, but fans did start to get a little nervous. After all, on the other side was a sharp-looking Jaroslav Halak, who has a history of going toe-to-toe with Price in nerve-wracking situations, even stealing the spotlight at times. For a while, it looked like we could see some of the same, especially when the Canadians failed to convert on four power plays that followed.

Their efforts, however, didn’t go to waste. With three and a half minutes to go, Europe captain Anze Kopitar was sent to the penalty box for holding, giving Canada a “go big or come back Saturday” opportunity. They had been close so many times before, but close wasn’t going to do them anything; something that Patrice Bergeron understood as he deflected a point shot from Brent Burns into the back of the net shortly after the powerplay began.

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Those who thought it was time to exhale thought very incorrectly, though. Drew Doughty, who was in the midst of one of the most shockingly disappointing games he’s had in a while, capped off the struggle with a high sticking call that put the game at serious risk.

Fortunately for Doughty, Brad Marchand didn’t get the memo.

With less than a minute left, the recently-extended Boston Bruins winger shocked the Air Canada Centre with a heavy, heat-seeking wrist shot that beat a stunned Halak to give the Canadians a sudden lead. Attempts to sink an empty netter didn’t go incredibly well, but they did force the Europeans to ice the puck with three seconds to go.

From there, it was time to stand up and cheer. It didn’t quite have the same vibe as the Olympics; the players tossed their gloves off but took their time to celebrate in NHL-like fashion, and the laps with the trophy were with a bit less enthusiasm as the ones they’d take with the Stanley Cup. But it was still Canada winning a best-on-best on home ice, with a crowd who still had reason to be excited for their home and native land proving itself to be the top hockey nation.

Oddly enough, the outcome of this game wasn’t drastically different from our tongue-in-cheek right after buzzer post. Carey Price was great, the Bruins duo scored both the goals, Canada only took one more shot than the Europeans but out-attempted them by dozens, Chara was booed, and Tavares was great, minus a missed wide open net. The process was immensely more entertaining than we thought it would be though.

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That’s because Europe really didn’t want to go down without a fight. Marian Hossa turned back the clock with an amazing 200-foot showing, Christian Ehrhoff and Mark Streit looked like they were playing in 2011, and Halak was lights out. The team pressed until the very end and followed Ralph Kreuger’s brainstorms to a T. They should be proud of the way that they played; for a hockey nation that didn’t exist before this tournament, and won’t exist now that it’s done, they certainly put the world on notice.

It just so happens that they had to face a behemoth that hasn’t lost a meaningful game since the Vancouver Olympics. It’ll be interesting to see when this run ends for Canada, but as it stands, the horizon is still a long ways away.

  • Oilerchild77

    Well I’m glad it’s over. Especially since neither Draisaitl or Sekera suffered any injuries and can finally join camp. Now we can get a proper evaluation of the lineup, particularly on defence.

  • Oiler Al

    For a sec there I taught Cana., was throw3ing the game , so Bettman could have game three on Saturday.

    Hossa @37 yrs was one of the best and hardest workers in the game , unlike Thorton, at the same age looked tired during this series. Time to dump that stupid Duck Dynasty mop… you too Burns. Too lazy to shave.

  • sh1t4brains

    What’s wrong with Canadian fans in Toronto? They all looked like zombies! Don’t they know how to root for the home team or are Toronto hockey fans really that bad?

    Sid and his line were beasts. Europe played dang well….just didn’t get it done.

  • redwhiteblack

    Did not see the game but looking at the replay, Marchand jumped on the ice and joined the rush just beating out a too many men infraction. A bit like a sprinter trying to beat the start gun. Glad it worked out!

  • HockeyYoda

    Despite Canada’s dominance through most of the tournament. I thought Europe exposed some weaknesses on Canada last night… Namely team speed. Yes Canada was fast, but not elite fast like the young guns team or even the 2014 Canadian world championship team that completely dominated. The Young guns team might have only been one goalie and a couple solid defenseman away from being the team to beat.

    Moving forward, I’d like to see team Canada put more emphasis on overall team speed and less on Jake Muzzin and 38 year old Joe Thorton.

    On a sidenote, Ralph Kruger has once again displayed why he is truly an exceptional coach.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Team Europe should be given credit. I keep hearing how Team Canada came out sluggish, or didn’t have their best game.

    The fact of the matter is that Team Europe has several Stanley Cup winning players, and they played as a true team. Their Go To Guys like Kopitar knew it was up to them to produce and they didn’t over pass the puck. Unlike team Canada where they had a tendency to overpass the puck since no one wanted to be the Go To guy half the time.

    Team Europe almost won a game, and their rise to the Finals was not a fluke. They were a worthy adversary for Team Canada and should be given some respect.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Here’s what I got from the World Cup of Hockey.

    As long as Price stays healthy all season, welcome back to the playoffs Montreal Canadiens.

    The big Kraut was an absolute beast in this tournament. If he can play like that for the upcoming season, the Oilers are sitting pretty.

    Another Oiler who shined was RNH. He was noticeable every time he was on the ice. He played with finesse and some feistiness just as he did when he was a Rebel.

    What a possible second line the Oilers could have with the Kraut and RNH.

    Did the young Leafs on NA ever look sensational! Is it possible the Leafs are going to make the playoffs this year? Don’t bet against Babs. Longshot to be sure, but it won’t be long before they are fixture in the playoffs.

    Man, did Pierre-Edouard Bellemare ever look good against Canada last night. Yet another reason the Flyers should be a lock to make the playoffs in 2017.