With their spots in the semi-finals assured, tonight’s game between Teams Canada and Europe determined which team will draw Sweden and which will play either Russia or North America, depending on tomorrow’s results. Given the less vital nature of the game, Team Canada elected to rest Shea Weber, Ryan Getzlaf, and Carey Price, replacing them with Jake Muzzin, Claude Giroux and Corey Crawford. (Why Crawford over Holtby remains puzzling, however.) Unfortunately, the goalie change robbed us from witnessing a showdown between Jaro Halak and Carey Price, but the game still promised to be an interesting one.
After being steamrollered in the pre-tournament, Europe surprised many by rounding into formidable shape against the USA and Czech Republic, but tonight’s game was a test to see how they’d fair tonight against the first legitimate super power they faced in the tournament proper.
The opening minutes did not disappoint. Steven Stamkos, surprisingly still goalless despite excellent play, opened the chances with a hard shot on Halak but it whistled wide. Tobias Rieder came down the ice not long after, showing Team Europe’s wheels, and looked like he’d beaten Crawford, but he too shot wide.
Sidney Crosby, however, made no mistake, scoring on a wrap around, sneaking the puck past the skate and glove of Halak.
Team Europe had a number of chances during a sustained stretch of offensive zone time, including a hard point shot that stung Logan Couture. But while the zone time looked fairly even, Canada already lead in shots 6-3 half-way through the first.
With just under three minutes left in the period, Stamkos again found himself with a fantastic scoring chance right in front of the net, only to be robbed by Halak. About a minute later, Brad Marchand too experienced what it must have been like to be a Washington Capital in the 2010 playoffs.
With less than a minute left in the period, Jonathan Toews finally beat Halak with a nifty little redirect of Matt Duchene’s shot.
After being out-shot 16-4 in the first, Team Europe was lucky to escape down only 2-0, largely due to Halak’s heroics.
Europe pressured well against Canada, in the opening minutes of the second, and at 4:38, Marian Hossa showed he still has it, as his regular season teammate allowed a terrible goal.
At the ten minute mark, in a weird penalty situation, Joe Thornton tripped Andrej Sekera, who accidentally hi-sticked him while falling. Although the hi-stick occurred due to the trip, Canada still benefited from the extra two minutes on the power-play.
Although Europe had a good short-handed opportunity, and Canada pressured briefly, the penalties were killed without further incident.
Team Europe had an excellent offensive zone shift, but unfortunately for them, Roman Josi broke his stick quarterbacking the play, and was forced to defend one-on-one against Jonathan Toews, without one, the result being that Canada went up 3-1.
Toews almost capped off the hat trick seconds later, but Halak came up with the puck in the scramble. The play put Canada back on the power play on a holding call against Mark Streit.
In a little Bruin on Bruin violence, Zdeno Chara was sent off for holding against Marchand. Canada did not capitalize in the final fifty seconds of the period, but closed out the first 40 minutes leading in shots by a ludicrous 30-8 as well as a comfortable 3-1 on the scoreboard.
Team Europe was able to kill off the remainder of the penalty to start the period, and there was nothing much to do before Alex Pietrangelo took a penalty against Nino Niederreiter. However, the most eventful moment of the power play was an accidental collision between Hossa and Marchand.
Later in the game, Chara took another penalty against Marchand, this time for hi-sticking, but one of the best chances came short-handed for Europe from Danish forward Frans Nielsen. Moreover, Halak made another couple of solid saves as the Canadian shot count rose above 40.
In the last five minutes of the game, it became clear that Canada was content to batten down the hatches, and protect their two goal lead, leading to some very steady - but rather boring - hockey. Just to shake it up a bit, and with 2:34 left in the period, the teams went 4-on-4 as Bellmare was dinged for hi-sticking, and Marchand got sent off for embellishment.
Right off the face-off, Logan Couture scored to give the Canadians a comfortable 4-1 lead, ending the round-robin a perfect 3-0. Jaroslav Halak made an astonishing 46 saves, and was remarkable even in defeat.
Despite the loss, the surprising Team Europe takes second in their group, and will face Team Sweden, whom they previously beat by an astonishing score of 5-2 in their last pre-tournament game. While it is likely that this game will be much closer, it should still be a good one to watch on Sunday.
Team Canada must wait for the results of the Finland-Russia game tomorrow. Should Finland win, they will take on Team North America.
- I know that Blackhawks fans love him, but Corey Crawford in net does not inspire me with confidence. His performance tonight didn’t do anything to change my mind. I’m certainly not going so far as to say that he is a bad goalie, but the goal he allowed against Hossa was exactly the sort of thing that had me wondering why Babcock went with him over Braden Holtby.
- While both teams definitely showed up tonight, they both looked like they were trying to get through this game without getting hurt. Given that this contest was not an elimination game, and their next games definitely are, this was not a bad thing, but definitely did lead to a more conservative style of play than I think we would have otherwise seen.