The semifinals are done and there are only two or three games left in the World Cup of Hockey. You got questions, I got answers.
How is Team USA doing?
They’re fine. Unfortunately, they had to leave the tournament early due to “suckitis” but I hear that they are back at home and should make a full recovery.
So, Sweden vs. Canada?
Of course Russia didn’t win. Three things in life are guaranteed; death, taxes, and Crosby beats Ovechkin. It’s unfair to put the loss all on Ovechkin, it’s not his fault that Russia can’t develop a high-level defenseman, but when Canada went down 2-1 in the game and they needed someone to step up, Crosby stepped up. Because Crosby always steps up. It’s amazing how that happens. The best player in the world realizes that his team needs a big play or else they’re going to lose, and instead of waiting around for someone else to do it, he does it himself.Meanwhile, Ovechkin was quite in the game and is failure to generate any offense definitely didn’t help Russia.
So, Team Europe?
But everyone said they were the worst team in the tournament.
On paper, they were. They have talent, but that talent looked overmatched. Team North America skated circles around them in the preliminary round and it looked like they had no chance once group play started. Then, they beat Team USA and everyone took notice.
I didn’t think they were going to beat Sweden, but they managed to slow the game down, force overtime, and got a little puck luck on the game-winning goal. Jaroslav Halak has been great in goal and coach Ralph Krueger has gotten a group from eight different nations to play together.
Do they have a chance against Canada?
Canada beat them 4-1 in group play, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in that game. Both teams had already advanced to the semifinals, and while it was for first place in the group, neither team looked all that interested in playing up to their position.
That said, Canada is the superior team and Team Europe has to beat them two out of three times to win the series. In a one-game scenario, I’d give Europe a chance, but it’s a lot to ask to beat Canada twice. They’re simply too talented and too deep. Halak has had an outstanding tournament, but Sergei Bobrovsky was having an outstanding tournament and stood on his head early against Canada, but was overwhelmed by the third period.
For Europe to win, they’ll have to control Canada’s speed. Anze Kopitar and Marian Hossa will have to be dominant in all zones and Roman Josi might need to play 30-minutes a game. And while those guys might be able to control the Crosby line, I don’t know how they’ll control the Steven Stamkos line or the Jonathan Toews line. The loss of Marian Gaborik lowers their chances even further as he’s a guy who can match Canada in the speed department and might be their best pure goal-scorer.
I think one game will be competitive, but the other one will be a route. Canada wins the series 2-0.
Is There a Bronze Medal game?
Good question. I’m not sure. I think a lot of people would have been excited for Sweden vs. Russia. My best guess is that NHL training camps are open and an extra game would have meant 40 guys missing an couple of extra days of camp, but that seems like a poor excuse considering that they’re doing a best-of-three series for the finals. If they really cared about getting these guy in camp on time, it would’ve been a one-game winner-take-all final. So, basically, while this tournament did a lot of things right, not having a third place game is one thing they got wrong.
I’ve been told that the ratings for this thing haven’t been good and I doubt they’ll get better with a Team Europe vs. Team Canada final.
Your information is correct. The ratings haven’t been good, but far too many regular viewers care about ratings, especially nowadays with DVRs and the internet. It’s not like hockey is going to die due to some poor ratings for a World Cup tournament. It might mean that ESPN doesn’t negotiate with the NHL when their TV contract is up in a few years, but NBC isn’t going to kick them to the curb, so there’s not much worry. All that matters is that the games have been exciting, which they have, and that it’s generated some interest, which it has. This is just a precursor to the season and in that regards, it’s been a success. The NHL successfully managed to alert the public that the season starts in a couple of weeks by showcasing their top talent on ESPN.
It’s one of the smartest things Gary Bettman has ever done.