I love these gimmick teams. SO MUCH.
North America vs. Sweden
I am going on record as saying that both Sweden and North America are what hockey could be. Everything about it. I await the day it's like this for every team.
Never accuse the North Americans of being boring...
...Because they'll make sure you're wrong. 30 seconds into the game, it was Connor McDavid, Morgan Reilly and then Auston Matthews to overwhelm the Swedish defense to put themselves up 1-0. A minute later, Vincent Trocheck put a backhander past Lundqvist to put the North Americans up 2-0.
The Swedes wouldn't take this lying down, as they re-established themselves, got their defensive game back up to snuff, and played North America just as hard as NA was playing them, and one of their explosive young forwards in Filip Forsberg broke into the scoresheet off of an interesting shot deflected off of Gibson's blocker. 2-1 North America.
Not taking it lying down, Team NA sprung Johnny Gaudreau for a possible one on nobody chance that ended up putting the North Americans back up by 2. 3-1 North America.
One of the best goaltenders in the world juked out by a guy who looks like he should be in high school. Unreal.
Sweden, however, would not be deterred. As the period entered it's waning minutes, Sweden pressed the attack more, and got a very fortunate bounce off of Morgan Reilly that would bring the score within one again. 3-2 North America.
Don't worry Morgan, you can just come back to the leafs where you can get lit up like a firework by Patrice Bergeron! Or Matt Beleskey! Or Frank Vatrano!
With that, the period ended with both sides having scored a bunch, and with Sweden still needing a goal. Both teams recorded 16 shots in the period.
There wasn't any scoring in this period, though not for a lack of trying. North America dumped 21 shots on Henrik Lundqvist this period and he had all of it. Most of the period was just an extended highlight reel of Lundqvist making crazy save after crazy save, and Sweden's defense tightening up and sending forwards ahead to try and pull even using the cycle, and John Gibson was standing tall after a crazy first.
Things were looking somewhat dire for Sweden as they headed into the third. Who would help them pull even? Or even ahead?
one Patrik Berglund, apparently!
Seven minutes into an already great final period of hockey, the Swedes finally got their answer. Erik Karlsson took a blast and Berglund was there to redirect it right past Gibson to tie the game at three:
Incredible how he was able to slip into the defense like that.
There would be no more scoring in regulation. It seemed clear that North America wanted to finish the game in regulation (which would've put them into the semifinals automatically), and just wait for this weekend. Sweden on the other hand, didn't really need anything other than a point and so elected to play good defense and put up a token effort at scoring for the rest of the period. Frustrating the North Americans.
The OT was short, and ultimately it did more harm to Team NA than good, but I want you to know this:
This. Was. Awesome. Every second of it. And while everyone will congratulate the North Americans on this, I want to say Sweden put up a hell of a fight in this extra frame as well. If anything, I want to say that both teams put on an absolute clinic of what hockey in 2016 not only could look like, but should. The whole game had tough moments, both sides shrugging off big hits, insane saves, serious doubt placed on both sides, and one boneshatteringly fantastic final goal. You couldn't ask for a better game.
North America will have to wait on the results of Finland - Russia to see whether or not they are allowed to go to the Semis. A win by Finland puts NA through, a win by Russia puts them in via the "tie breaker" of having beaten NA. Sweden meanwhile, can just sit back and wait for Team Europe on Sunday afternoon.
Team Europe vs. Canada
Why did you put this evil on them
Tonight's game is brought to you by Jaroslav Halak. Who had the "honor" of having 46 shots pelted on him. The Europeans meanwhile, put up 4 and 5 shots in periods one and two.
How do you think this went?
Yeah. Not a great start. Defensive breakdowns meant Sidney Crosby managed to get a wraparound chance and Jonathan Toews took advantage of being in the right place at the right time in order to put the Canadians up 2-0.
Not a great start, but hope came later.
Hope came from Marian Hossa as he managed a fantastic sharp angle shot on Corey Crawford.
...and it was then dashed in the waning minutes of the period as Johnathan Toews put the Red and White up by two again. And in general with the Canadians just playing dominantly.
In spite of canada's general brilliance, the real star of this period and the following period was Jaroslav Halak, who played out of his mind against a clearly tougher foe. He came out of tonight's game with a .913 SV%, but played like someone posting a number around .940. Team Europe sure as hell wasn't helping him out, so he made the most of his opportunities.
This period was effectively one side trying to make up for lost time and another just trying to wait for the final buzzer. Canada did put up more shots (again) but were effectively trying to just stay ahead and make sure Europe didn't get any ideas. Once Again, Halak played like a champion, but effort sometimes can only be rewarded in team sports if the rest of the team meets you halfway...
...And Team Europe was miles out from where he was at that point. Neither side really lost much from this game, although Bruins fans had a slight scare when Marian Hossa dumped Brad Marchand onto the ice and both were slow to return to the ice. Other than that, this 4-1 loss was disheartening for Europe, but not impossible to come back from.
Canada will be waiting on the results of Finland-Russia to see whether or not Russia or North America ends up their Semifinal opponent. Team Europe on the other hand, will get plenty of rest and time to prepare for Sweden on Sunday afternoon.
Bruins at the WCOH:
Zdeno Chara played the second most out of any defenseman on Team Europe, and managed to look good, but started almost every deployment in the defensive zone. This should not shock you at all.
Canada decided to reserve Bergeron and Marchand to the second line, where they did fine. Bergeron still leads the team in shots, and all his stats remain preserved (2 goals), as does Marchand (1 goal, 2 assists).