It’s been an incredible run for Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey, but the magic bottle may be running on low.
Europe put an early scare into Team Canada in Game 1 of the the best-of-three final, but Canada showed its poise and defeated Europe 3-1. The must-win Game 2 for the Europeans will be Thursday night at the Air Canada Center in Toronto at 8 PM ET.
On the very first shift of the game, European captain Anze Kopitar surprised Canadian goaltender Carey Price with a quick shot off the rush. The rebound went straight to Tomas Tatar right in front of the net, but Price stopped his shot too. Europe would create other chances, but that was a golden opportunity missed. It was one they couldn’t afford, not if they were looking for the upset.
Team Europe actually outshot the Canadians 13-9 in the first period, and at the midway point of the game, the Europeans were on pace for over 40 shots. The first period was just the third time all tournament that Canada ended a period getting outshot.
But overall, the top Canadian forward lines were too much for the Europeans. Fresh off the giant contract extension he signed this week, Brad Marchand scored the first goal of the game, just about two minutes after Tatar’s golden chance. His linemates, Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron, picked up the two assists. Steven Stamkos added his first goal of the tournament later in the period, and Canada led at the first intermission 2-0.
Europe continued to push hard at the beginning of the second period, and Tatar redeemed himself, scoring at the seven minute mark of the second, but over the final 30 minutes, Canada really tightened up defensively and allowed just eight shots. Bergeron scored the final goal of the game on an assist from Crosby and Marchand.
Although this game could have been very different had Tatar found the back of the net on his first opportunity as well, ultimately, someone else needs to score for Europe. Nobody besides Tatar has scored for the Europeans in the last 88 minutes, and the last skater with a goal other than Tatar is Marian Gaborik, who is out for the tournament due to injury.
Interestingly, some of the best chances the Europeans created Tuesday were from defenders. Blueliner Roman Josi led the team with five shots on goal. Defensemen Mark Streit and Zdeno Chara both had three shots on net, which was tied for the second-most. European defensemen combined to tally 15 of their 33 shots on goal in Tuesday’s game. Europe will need even more from its back end in the offensive zone if they are going to force a decisive Game 3.
The team could use some help on the power play too. We go over this after every game, but it’s worth repeating until Team Europe scores on the man advantage.
Since the beginning of round robin play, the Europeans are 0-for-15 on the power play. That simply can’t happen with talented players like Kopitar, Tatar, Marian Hossa, Mats Zuccarello and Frans Nielsen. Perhaps not having a right-handed shot is hurting the power play; it looked like that absence was a detriment to Europe’s offense towards the end of the third period.
Looking ahead to Thursday’s game, whether you believe there could be a Game 3 greatly depends upon whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty person. On one hand, Europe was able to stay with Canada better than anyone anticipated heading into the Final, but the fact Canada probably played its worst game of the tournament and still won by two nearly puts the idea of Europe beating Canada two games in a row to rest.
Europe’s best chance of surprising the heavy favorites was in the first game of the series. They did that, but it still wasn’t enough, and it’s very unlikely to happen again.
Team Europe will need some kind of new magic potion to pull off this upset.