Tomorrow evening, the first game of the best-of-three final series for the World Cup of Hockey will be played. After 14 matches played between eight teams, it will be Team Canada versus Team Europe.
Back when the World Cup of Hockey began on September 17th, there was one thing that everyone agreed upon: Canada was the favourite to win it all. And now after three round robin games and a semi-final, Canada is in the final. Even fellow hockey powerhouses, the United States and Russia (who they played in their semi-final) were really no match for them. But what of their finals opponent?
Back in issue 2 of the OWLconnected eMag, we predicted that Canada would meet Team Sweden in the final. And Sweden did win their round robin group and advanced to yesterday's semi-final. But they're not going to the final. Instead, it will be the surprise of the tournament: Team Europe.
Made-up team, real results
Team Europe is not representing one country, but nine: Slovakia, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Slovenia, France, Norway, Italy, and Austria. Why? Tournament organizers felt that national teams from each of these countries were not yet good enough to face such great hockey nations as Canada, Sweden, and Russia. They wanted competitive games, not blowouts. But an all-star team made up of the best from these countries? That would be a pretty good team.
Still, most experts thought that Europe would be easy pickings for the other teams in this World Cup. Instead, they shocked the USA 3–0, beat the Czech Republic 4–3 in overtime, and then beat Sweden yesterday in the semi-final, 3–2, again in overtime. Who knew?
Still a lopsided matchup
The success of Team Europe has been a great story, as well as a reminder of how important experience can be in a team (captain Anze Kopitar, and players Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, and Dennis Seidenberg have all been major pieces of recent Stanley Cup-winning teams). They've also had unbelievable goaltending from Slovakia's Jaroslav Halak all tournament. But playing Canada is another matter...
Europe only lost one game in the round robin, and it was 4–1 against Canada. Halak was incredible all night and made 43 saves. But Canada was relentless in attack, led by Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, and a host of incredible talent. In 240 minutes of hockey, Canada has trailed its opponents for less than three minutes. In other words, all teams (Europe included) have found it incredibly difficult to get and keep the lead against Canada.
And now a real David vs. Goliath battle has been set. It's the team that no one thought would win a single game against the greatest hockey team currently playing. We must admit, we find to hard to imagine that Europe will be able to beat Canada not once but twice to claim the championship. But we're still super excited to see how it all goes down!