It was almost inevitable. The HNIC /Sportsnet cabal had invested so much effort into the "plucky underdog" narrative of Team Europe. They had lost in the pre tourney games, so they must suck, right ? Nevermind looking closer and seeing multiple Stanley Cups leading them, with Chara, Kopitar, and Hossa on the roster. So of course they had to win !
It was not for trying by the Swedish team. Henrik Lundqvist is probably going to get the Luongo Treatment in the aftermath, as the second goal for Tatar was not him at his best, and he was not quick enough to get back and set after his clear up the boards was stopped on Tatar's second, the overtime winner. No matter. People in Scandinavia will say they / he choked, or, as they say in Swedish "skit sängen". ( Soiling the linens in English ) .
I'm kind of two minds on it. It would have been fun, and possibly beneficial, to watch our first line go up against Canada's biggest and best. But have you seen the size of the Canadian team ? Jesus. Even Steven Stamkos is looking to lay the lumber, and guys that normally don't even think of the hit in the NHL will be laying it all out, even in this "made for money" tourney. They are playing in Canada, for one, and two, Hockey Canada does not discern on what the tourney is in these best on best things. They know they are in "all the way" so to speak. An entire country demands it, and will be upset by anything but first. You could see it in the way they overwhelmed the Russians when they had the temerity to actually get a lead on our heroes. Without Goalie Bob, that game was over in the first anyhow, but the first bit of adversity was overcome with flying colours, to say the least.
The Canuck first line did not get a lot of chances to set up in the offensive end in the first. Perhaps that was due to Kreuger's coaching style with Team Europe, which is the Swiss Way of playing hockey. As strong as the Swedes defensively, and maybe with more overall speed and ability coming at you when you least expect it. Think New Jersey Devils with talent. So, Hank and Daniel did not have a lot of early opportunities, but there were a few. It was looking like they would get the first goal on a dominant shift early, and there were others in the first period, and through the second. ( That first goal came from Niklas Backstrom about 2:31 into the second, when he rip a rebound into the back of the net. Always follow through kids...even right on the edge of the crease ) Credit a blue line that consisted of mostly Chara and Sekera when they were on, and Frans Neilson's line up front. The Swedes played their quiet defense, all angles and pucks to areas, and Europe were mostly contained, until Gaborik managed to tie it up with 3:33 remaining in the middle stanza.
In the third, it was disaster for Lundqvist, a little, as Tatar got his first ( I missed this one, as I mistimed the clicker back from the Blue Jays, and it was only 12 seconds into the period. From what the narrative tellers were saying though. and the replay, Henrik could have done better ( lol ) . That forced the Swedes out of their shell, and the Canuck first line was increasingly hard to play against. ( Loui Eriksson had 4 shots on the night, Daniel had two, and Henrik had one, and the outside of a post in the third as well. ).
It was on one of their patented dominant cycle shifts that the Swedes tied it up, with about four and a half minutes left, setting up Karlsson for a shot that made it through a great high screen by Eriksson. The Swedes came on, ( Henrik off the post happened a couple minutes later ), but were not able to beat Halak, who is now 9-0 against Lundqvist in head to head international games. ( pretty amazing for a goalie as good as Henrik Lundqvist. Halak just has his number, as they say ).
The game went to OT, and, again, the Sedins created a decent chance to end it. It simply was not to be, however, as Tatar put it past Lunqvist just 3:43 into the sudden death.
The Forgotten Canuck
Jannik Hansen . On a line with Bellmarre, and I believe Reider, The Great Dane put his Swiss Army Knife Game to good use. Fitting into a bottom six role seamlessly, he was using his speed, carrying the puck, and being a pain in the ass to play against, as usual. If your pick for the last Canuck to be playing in this tourney was the Honey Badger, good for you. Like Kopitar was saying on the bench after they beat the Americans in the first game of the tourney, after getting torched by the "kids" in the lead up games, "we fooled em all boys".
That is over now. Mike Babcock and Co will probably be up ate into the night breaking down the tape ( it looked like he was doing it at a screen during the game, as the entire staff was there scouting their opponents ), and the tendencies will be broken down. This is a good team though. At least the Top Four of the back end ( Chara, Sekera, Josi, Seidenberg ) is tough. The forward lines all have skill and speed, and they are banded together in a "no one expected us to do shit, so let's shock the world" ethos that Kreuger has pushed. You don't get a lot of chances playing for the prize in Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Denmark. But they will now.
I expect a battle, and some good hockey starting Tuesday. But I do not expect this series to go to the limit. It will be over after two games. Sorry Euros. I'd actually love to be proven wrong and see the series go all three, as I enjoy the game being played when it is best on best. I just do not think that is going to happen.
Other than that, for Tre Kronor, it is over, and everyone disperses to their camps. Just in time for the preseason, of course. Expect the guys traveling back to skip a game or even two at that. There are a few invites and guys to get through for the Canucks, for instance, and the bonus of this tourney is, even in losing, the teams that gave their players to the cause will get back guys already "up to speed", so to speak, already.
That was the question, the "good versus bad" of having this thing. Getting your guys injured in games that you aren't paying them for sucks. Oliver Ekman-Larsson had that happen with an ankle injury today. I am sure the Dallas Stars wish they never heard of the World Cup of Hockey. ( Seguin and Benn out, and I think another one or two guys whose names slip my mind ) The way it happened here, from a perfectly selfish standpoint, is great. Our first line got a chance to work on the chemistry they already had going in, and it should be seamless as they transition to the Canuck preseason. Jakob Markstrom got in some ice time, and got to have the ear of the best goalie his home country has produced for almost two weeks.
Let Jannik Hansen go and shock the world, and help win a game against the New Big Red Machine. El Grande Maple Leaf is probably going to be too much for this team in the funky coloured unis. But stranger things have happened. Go get them Honey Badger !