Nobody expected Team Europe (2-0) to come out of Group A with the Canadians (2-0). If you asked a lot of the mainstream hockey media, I’m sure they’d have picked Team USA (0-2) and Team Canada to win the group. Those of us that saw Team USA’s
numerous flaws probably still would have thought they’d make it past Europe and the Czech Republic in group play and perhaps make some noise in the playoff.
But, here we are. I don’t think anybody expected this. And if you did, you know more about hockey than I ever will. Team Europe is playing Team Canada to determine which of them will win Group A and secure one of the top-2 seeds for the semifinals (both teams will already advance). Don’t think they have a chance against Canada? You’re not alone. But who cares? They’re in the medal round and if they can at least keep it close against Canada tonight, it could indicate that we have a very exciting final four.
This isn’t even an underdog vs overwhelming favorite. This is the ugly duckling of the tournament against the presumptive winners. Their logo is forgettable, their roster is nothing special and yet here they are. This team’s playing Dennis Seidenberg 19 minutes a night and they have a chance to defeat the mighty Canadians.
There was a pretty good pace to this game off the opening faceoff. Steven Stamkos had early chance that Jaroslav Halak just got a piece of. At the other end of the rink, Nino Niederreiter broke in on a miniature breakaway that went just wide. It only took 4 minutes for the Canadians to find twine, Crosby scored on a wraparound just after an offensive zone draw.
Crosby goal pic.twitter.com/cMFxYR8kmq— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 22, 2016
After the goal, the Canadians started taking it to the Europeans. Team Europe was passing well and seemed to do a decent job at keeping the game close, but Team Canada generally overwhelmed the European squad. Frans Nielsen had a few good chances in there after some Canadian turnovers, but 10 minutes in and Team Canada had a comfortable lead in shots, 6-1, and seemed to be generally controlling the play.
Without Halak, this game is over after the first period. Even though the Europeans were doing a good job in their passing game, the Canadians seemed to be just a bit better in every phase. Halak came up big on a number of saves to keep the European squad in this one.
The first save, on a 2-on-0 down low, left Steven Stamkos, and everyone else watching, flabbergasted. If you replay that sequence 100 times, Stamkos scores on at least 90% of them.
Halak save on Stamkos pic.twitter.com/NIpY2C7j7P— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 22, 2016
Brad Marchand nearly put the Canadians up by 2 but Halak stoned him not once, but twice on the doorstep.
just pulled my groin watching this pic.twitter.com/pvPKyrSmVA— Kyle M. (@KyleWIIM) September 22, 2016
Unfortunately, with just 54 seconds left in the period and after those two incredible sequences by Halak the Canadians scored a bit of a fluky goal. Halak went to play the puck behind his net and threw it up the right boards. Matt Duchene scooped the puck up, threw it to the front of the net where Jonathan Toews banked the puck in off his stick.
Toews goal pic.twitter.com/mkH3a3HKrT— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 22, 2016
It was a bad goal for the Europeans to give up but after robbing Stamkos and Marchand (twice), I guess that’s just a bit of bad luck to go along with some of the good.
After one: 2-0 Canada
Down 2-0, the Europeans came out pretty solid to start the second period. The first 4 minutes didn’t have any sort of crazy chances for Team Europe but they did generate 3 or 4 solid opportunities to score. Soon after, Marian Hossa got the Europeans on the board with a shot from the goal line that somehow found its way through Corey Crawford.
Hossa goal pic.twitter.com/WUYlsHL70l— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 22, 2016
Not a very good goal for Crawford to give up but I doubt the Europeans cared much about that.
Somehow the Europeans stuck around through the period despite only having 6 shots on goal at the halfway point of the game. They were creating some quality chances against Team Canada and just generally sucking a lot of the speed out of the game, exactly what they needed to do if they had any chance to beat Canada.
Team Europe just stuck around with the Canadians until about the 15 minute mark. Roman Josi broke his stick at the offensive blueline. The Canadians came back with a 2-on-1 against Josi. Josi played pass until the last second, Toews shot far-side on Halak and beat him clean to make it a 3-1 game.
No help required. #WCH2016 pic.twitter.com/4EsuftD0lJ— #WCH2016 (@NHL) September 22, 2016
For a team with only 7 shots on goal, Europe only being down by 2 goals is still pretty darn good.
After that 3-1 marker the Canadians could smell some blood in the water. They had a lot of late pressure but couldn’t seem to put the game away. The Canadians went to work on the man advantage late and looked dangerous but still weren’t able to convert. That’s how the period ended.
After two: 3-1 Canada
The third started with some good pressure from the Europeans early on. They hit a few posts, shot the puck off Crawford’s mask and looked more dangerous than they had up to that point in the game. Even though they looked alright, it wasn’t enough to break through the Canadian defense. At the halfway point of the period they found themselves still down by 2 goals and heading to a crucial penalty kill.
Halak, definitely Europe’s MVP, came up with a few spectacular saves on the penalty kill to keep Europe’s dreams alive. He’s easily been one of the best players in the entire tournament so far. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with his play.
Frans Nielsen had a chance on a shorthanded 2-on-1 that he sent just wide of the net and the Canadians managed 6 shots on the powerplay but Halak stopped each one. This stayed a 3-1 game until late in the game when Team Canada scored at the 2:30 mark on 4-on-4. Toews out-muscled the Europeans in front of the net and Couture buried the rebound. I wasn’t too happy about Canada padding their lead but hey, at least Toews didn’t get his hat trick.
And that’s how the game ended. Canada thoroughly outplayed the Europeans but Team Europe showed how they’ve gotten this far in the tournament. They stick around in every game, no matter how badly they’re getting outplayed, and lean on their otherworldly goaltender in Jaroslav Halak.
Final score: 4-1 Canada.
How’d The Wings Play?
I didn’t see a whole lot of Vanek tonight (he only played about 10 minutes), his results were pretty mixed. He had a few bad passes out there but wasn’t terrible by any means.
Tomas Tatar had somewhat similar results. I didn’t see either him or Vanek generate a whole lot of offense but I can’t point to any specific big mistakes he made either. Both played a very low-event role on a low-event team and I think that shows. I would’ve liked to see more offense out of both of them to help the offensively-challenged Europe team but I can understand why neither was able to chip in much; the rest of the team wasn’t much of a help and neither was given a big chunk of icetime.
Frans Nielsen had a few good looks in this game, specifically a few shots that came off the rush which just went wide or that Crawford had to fight off. He looked generally good in this game too, or at least as good as you can look when your team only generates less than 25 shots on goal and gives up 40+.
That’s all for tonight folks!