Sunday, September 25, 2016

In the flash of a blade, Sweden is sent packing by Team Europe

The ensemble cast of hockey's version of Les Miserables made things rather miserable for Swedes everywhere on Sunday, as momentum, that of a skate blade to be precise, told the tale for whether Team Europe, or Team Sweden would move on in the second semi-final of the World Cup of Hockey.

Team Europe, the tossed together line up of the other countries that don't quite put fear into the hearts of hockey nations as a full unit, collected a string of A-listers that was made up along the lines of a Noah's Ark squad (one, or two from each of the participating counties) along with some surprising lesser names.

All of whom pulled on the rather colourful uniform of Team Europe and took to the ice without the benefit of even a national anthem (though in a pinch they possibly could have pulled out the EU's Ode to Joy which seems to be the defacto song of unity for those inclined to such a concept in Europe)

Regardless if they had a song to sing along with or not, all seemed to gel quite nicely under coach Ralph Krueger, who no doubt channelled that always popular theme of "No one respects us, and no one expects us" something clearly heard by his roster of new believers.

That approach worked well through the opening round and on Sunday in the second semi-final of the weekend, the European squad would once again surprise the hockey pundits, as they and Team Sweden settled in for what at times resembled a sixty minute drills session, occasionally broken up with some bursts of speed and yes, even a hit or two.

It wasn't a thriller by any means, that despite the fact it went to an Overtime before the Euro's found their winning goal off of the skate of Tomas Tatar, the bulk of the three periods was for the most part a stifling affair of lock down hockey. Ye there was some nice passing and shots were fired on goal here and there, and while plentiful at 39 to 31 in favour of the Swedes, you never really had the feeling that suggested a high scoring match was on the horizon.

The first period was played to a 0-0 draw and for good cause, few chances were taken, few mistakes were there to be capitalized on, as the two sides took to lengthy glides on the ice as drawn up on the dressing room board we imagine.

Period two did find some scoring as each team traded goals the Swedes making their case for another Canada/Sweden final with Nicklas Backstrom's goal in the first three minutes, the Europeans going not so fast when Marian Gaborik grabbed the equalizer late in the middle frame.

Tomas Tatar served notice that Sweden might not be fulfilling its destiny when he picked up his first of two goals on the day at the twelve second mark of the final period, Team Sweden would not claw their way back into a tie until fifteen minutes later when Erik Karlsson gave hope to the Blue and Gold combining with the Sedins for a nice passing play to even things up.

Neither side could find the range in the final four and half minutes setting the stage for the Overtime drama which would not take long to play out, with Tatar once again the featured attraction parked at the side of the Swedish net, directing the puck with his skate by Henrik Lundqvist setting off celebrations from uh, ah, well ... they were pretty happy on the Team Europe bench at least.

The Swedes looked sufficiently stunned at the outcome, wondering if the goal was valid or not, though in the end it was ruled a good goal and the celebration for Team Europe was on.

And while Sweden may have been shocked, they probably were nowhere near as baffled as World Cup organizers.

They now have a team that was tossed together as a way to showcase the constellation of non hockey power nations (Team Leftovers as some would call them) ready to challenge for the top honours.  Something we are pretty sure they didn't anticipate back when they cooked up the World Cup Concept earlier this year.

The European squad now moves on to the Semi-Finals on Tuesday and the first of what could be a three game showdown with Team Canada.

And while most probably believe that the Canadians will be on a fast track to claiming the top spot for 2016, a few bounces of a puck and the continued hot hand of Jaroslav Halak could make things interesting.

If the Europeans really want to really put a scare into Canadian hockey fans from game one on, we offer up an alternative option for the anthem prior to each game.

Same tune; different interpretation.

If nothing else, it probably would make for the perfect dressing room sound mix to get some European blood pumping prior to face off.

And should Team Europe pull off a World Cup Hockey championship, it will definitely become the talking point for the two weeks of hockey that have played out and none of us will ever look at Ode to Joy in the same light again.

You can review the game summary and some notes on Sunday's semi-final from our Game Day Archive page here.

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