Game 2, Thursday at 8:00pm est (5:00pm pst) from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
It’s do or die on Thursday night for Team Europe after a gallant effort but 3-1 loss to Team Canada in the opener of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey finale.
Down by a 2-1 count after two periods Tuesday night the determined Europeans found themselves unable to tie the score despite controlling the play for long stretches of time. Canada found themselves on their heels for the first time in the tournament as Team Europe unloaded 33 shots at netminder Carey Price. Cool as ice the Canadian goalie did exactly what he is supposed to do. Hold the fort until the rest of the team found a way to win. A highly spirited first period was followed by a slow and sluggish second as Canada appeared to lose focus at times allowing the Europeans to stay in the game and challenge for the win.
Game 2 will feature the same rosters with no changes being seen barring an injury. Jaroslav Halak has been outstanding the entire tournament and will have to be just as good if not better for his team to snatch game two away. Europe must find a way to limit the dominance of the Crosby, Bergeron and Marchand line. The trio has dominated the ice in every game they’ve played and the challengers must find a way to shut them down. Team Europe does have “home ice” for game two which will allow for line matching if they want to. Canadian shifts have been so short and swift that attempting to match lines may be futile.
Marion Hossa and Anze Kopitar are going to have to find a way to drive puck possession and extend offensive zone time. Except for one giant mistake from Zdeno Chara the European defense held its own in game one but may be forced to push the offensive game to give the team the push they need. Halak has been a revelation, a reminder of the spring of 2010 when it was he not Carey Price that stole playoff series from not only the Capitals but the Penguins as well. For the Europeans to succeed Thursday night, he is going to have to steal another one.
Canada will play its usual game, short fast shifts designed to keep legs fresh and allow for maximum pressure. Nice to see Steven Stamkos put one in, perhaps he can relax the grip on his stick now. Shea Weber and Drew Doughty need to continue their dominance in the Canadian end. Some added offense would be a nice addition as several Canadians have played exceptionally well without points to show for it. Jumbo Joe at 37 can still bring it on occassion as can Ryan Getzlaf and fellow Anaheim Duck Corey Perry. Ultimately though, game two as well as the tournament will be decided by the play of Crosby, Bergeron and Marchand. Good luck with that, I see the World Cup final ending with a 4-3 Team Canada win. An excellent effort by Team Europe but just not enough depth to survive the Canadian onslaught.
1- Steven Stamkos 2- Sidney Crosby 3- Jaroslav Halak
Next drop of a real hockey puck is October 12th.
Great tournament with a few surprises along the way. That’s how I see it, from the bleacher seats.