Rollin' In The Rye

Canada’s World Cup win proves they are still the best country in hockey


It wasn’t pretty, but Team Canada was still able to get the job done.

They capped off another successful tournament by sweeping the 2016 World Cup of Hockey Finals with a 2-1 win over Team Europe on Thursday. Despite some struggles throughout both Game 1 and 2, Canada managed to find a way to win each game and, in turn, the tournament.

For the most part of Thursday’s matchup, Europe seemed to be the team in control all night. They held a lead for a majority of the game because they were able to keep the Canadian stars silent on the offensive end, while goalie Jaroslav Halak made save after save. Had it not been for the strong play of Carey Price, Team Canada may have faced a bigger deficit than just a single goal.

With under 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd period, Patrice Bergeron was finally able to end the dry spell for Canada when he tipped in a Brent Burns shot from the blueline to tie the game at 1-1. Then, in the final minute of the period and on the penalty kill, Jonathan Toews flew into the offensive zone and was able to open up space down the middle. This led to a pass to a streaking Brad Marchand who fired a wrist shot past Halak to give Canada the lead and, eventually, the win with 43 seconds remaining.

For Team Europe, the game ended a remarkable tournament for a squad that many considered to be a write-off for the very beginning. With many talented players, like forwards Anze Kopitar and Tomas Tatar, defenders, Roman Josi and Zdeno Chara, and Halak in net, coach Ralph Kruger’s team was able to combine a great group of talent together to play some inspiring hockey that caught many teams off guard.

While the loss may have turned out to be a heartbreaker, the fact that Europe was able to keep Canada in check for the 2 final games of the tournament showed just how dangerous this team really was.  There is a lot to be proud of Team Europe’s finish, but the most important thing for them was by proving that their team, along with Team North America, was not merely a gimmick, but a legitimate team that threatened to win it all.

The tournament win could not have been possible without some key contributions throughout the lineup. The Marchand, Bergeron, and Sidney Crosby line was nearly unstoppable throughout the last couple of weeks, registering a combined 12 goals, 12 assists, and 24 points. The line was involved offensively for essentially the entire tournament, and their success helped pave the way to a World Cup win. It’s a huge reason why Crosby was also named the 2016 World Cup of Hockey MVP.

Price’s work in net was also a key factor in the victory. Entering the World Cup, Price had maintained a shutout streak that stretched back to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. While it did end midway through the tournament, it did not affect him in the slightest as he was still able to sustain himself and keep his team in each and every match. During Game 2, he was tested heavily throughout the match, stopping 32 of 33 shots for a .970 save percentage. Because of his clutch performance, Canada was able to mount a comeback instead of having to play one more game on Saturday.

Finally, coach Mike Babcock and the rest of the coaching staff also deserve their fair share of credit for the victory. Even though he crafted his lines effectively and recognized his team’s potential, Babcock was still able to keep his team in check throughout the World Cup.

Combine all of this with the solid work of players such as Toews, Matt Duchene, Drew Doughty, and Alex Pietrangelo among others, and it is no wonder Canada has maintained a 16 game best-on-best winning streak, dating back to the 2010 Winter Olympics. While it was a tough affair against Team Europe during Games 1 and 2, Canada still managed to win both matches and ultimately prove why they are still the best country in hockey.

With the World Cup finished, the attention will now turn towards the start of the 2016-17 NHL season, which is less than 2 weeks away, with opening night Oct. 12.

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You can follow Michael Mazzei on Twitter @MichaelMazzei3.

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