Recap: Team Sweden vs. Team Europe
Tonight I went back to the Verizon Center to watch Team Europe battle against Team Sweden in what should have been Red Wings on Parade but has been downgraded to a Wings-stravaganza due to the loss of Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg to injury. Injuries that are 100% not a big deal, they are not even a little deal, in fact we are told they are at most a nano-deal. So no worries right? RIGHT?
When we saw them last...
Team Europe struggled against Dylan Larkin's Team North America brought to you by Dylan Larkin in partnership with Dylan Larkin. However, in the late stages of the game Team Europe definitely showed signs of life in the 7-4 loss as the young guns slowed down a bit. P.S. Dylan Larkin. Team Europe is not expected to do much in the tournament, it would be considered a victory for them to make the semi-finals. On paper, they don't out-skill Team Sweden, but they just might wear them down enough to force some key turnovers.
Sweden is coming off a 6-3 victory over Finland, they squared off at the Scandinavium in Gothenburg. Yes, they get the Scandinavium and we get Little Caesar's Arena. Unfair. Anyway, Team Sweden is expected to be a tough opponent as they not only have skilled players, but skilled players who are used to playing together like the Sedins. They also have a strong defensive squad and a solid goalie in Henrik Lundqvist.
The Coaching Match-up
Team Sweden has some familiar faces behind the scenes in team advisers Nick Lidstrom and Daniel Alfredsson. Rikard Grönborg just took over the head coaching job, you may remember him from the beginning of this sentence. He has a wealth of experience from his time as a scout and then assistant coach, but unfortunately he does not quite pull off the super-villain look. He has the suit, but not the facial expression.
Team Europe's coach is Freddy Krueger's less famous cousin, Ralph Krueger, who has coached all across Europe. Oddly enough he is also the chairman of the Southampton Football Club. Football as in soccer as in "I wasn't going to watch the whole game but those British commentators draw me in every time". He is known for his positive can-do attitude, great motivational speeches, and his dedication to the heating and plumbing needs of the greater Steinbach, Manitoba area.
Players to Watch
Tomas Tatar, Frans Nielsen, and Thomas Vanek.
The goaltenders are Henrik Lundqvist for Sweden and Jaroslav Halak for Europe, the winner will be crowned King of New York. Sweden and Europe aren't playing the smash and bash style of hockey we saw last night with Team USA, there is a lot of back and forth, some nifty plays, but nothing to show for it until halfway through the period. This was a strange goal, Niklas Hjalmarsson drops his stick by the net, reaches down for it and slightly screens his own goaltender Lundqvist, and Leon Draisaitl takes a shot that manages to get through to the back of the net because Lundqvist didn't really see it coming until it was too late. Assists go to Nino Niederreiter and Zdeno Chara.
Sweden gets some good chances, at one point the puck was loose in Halak's crease but was shoveled out of harms way by a Europe defenseman. The period ends on a few more good shots by Sweden but nothing gets by Halak and the period ends 1-0 in favor of Team Europe with shots even at 10 each.
Something good? Something bad? Bit of both.
Early in the second period Daniel Sedin goes to the box for a hilariously obvious holding penalty, and a wide open Tatar is fed the puck and sends it up and under the crossbar to give Europe the 2-0 lead. Assists go to Marian Gaborik and Mark Streit.
Now a little bit of drama, Sweden goes on the powerplay but Jannik Hansen gets himself a short-handed breakaway. He goes down and is awarded a penalty shot, which Lundqvist shuts down. Sweden's powerplay expires and Europe clangs one off the crossbar giving everyone a quick heart attack.
Halfway through the second, Sweden starts to unravel a bit with sloppy passes and a general sense of frustration in the air. They manage to shake it off and start applying some serious pressure, and just when it looks like they might turn the game around, here comes Draisaitl again who chips the puck into the net making it 3-0 Europe. Assists to Nino Niederreiter and Dennis Seidenberg.
Tomas Tatar is penalized for being a perfectly wonderful hockey angel and Sweden quickly capitalizes on their powerplay opportunity on a goal from Daniel Sedin with assists from Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The period ends 3-1 Europe with shots 19-18 in favor of Sweden.
Tre Kronor? More like They Goners!
After not noticing him the whole game, early in the third period Thomas Vanek snatches up a loose puck turned over by Sweden, blazes in all alone, and scores! Assist from Mats Zuccarello. The score now 4-1 Europe. Under two minutes later, Draisaitl completes the hat trick, assists to Roman Josi and Dennis Seidenberg. That would be the end for Lundqvist, who was replaced by Jacob Markstrom.
Just under 5 minutes to go and Sweden shows signs of life with a goal from Patric Hornqvist, assists go to Victor Hedman and Filip Forsberg. However, Anze Kopitar's empty net goal put the final nail in the coffin, with assists from Tomas Tatar (yay!) and Andrej Sekera.
Final: Europe wins 6-2.
Your three stars for the night were Niederreiter, Halak, and Draisaitl. Draisaitl looked really good the whole game, he's only 20 years old but in Oilers years that's like, 50.
Who wins it all?