First place is up for grabs as Team Canada takes on Team Europe tonight in Group A action in the World Cup of Hockey.
Much of the biggest hype for the World Cup of Hockey happened yesterday before Team Canada took on Team USA. Expectations were high for the Americans for their do or die game and that raised the level of intensity for the majority of the game. At least until the American team rolled over and the Canadian men took control.
With Canada’s win, the stage is set for a matchup against Europe for first place in Group A standings. With both teams guaranteed a spot in the final four matches, the significance can be seen as slightly muted.
Storylines for Canada vs. Europe
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The Goalies: Both Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak have been almost lights out for their respective teams but with the semis around the corner, Corey Crawford will get the call for Canada on the second half of their back-to-back.
Anze Kopitar vs. Canada’s four lines: In both Europe’s games in the first round, Kopitar has played almost 24 minutes in each. Europe’s got its handful of go-to guys, but only Marian Hossa has come close to Kopitar in time on ice. Canada has generally been rolling its four lines and last night Ryan Getzlaf – not Sidney Crosby – led all Canadian forwards in ice time.
Europe’s got their sleeper line, however with Frans Nielsen, Mats Zuccarello, and Marian Gaborik. The trio have combined for five points in Europe’s last two games. Getzlaf is getting a night off along with Shea Weber, which makes way for Claude Giroux and Jake Muzzin to re-enter the lineup.
Coaches that know each other: So Team Europe Coach, Ralph Krueger, was a consultant to Mike Babcock in Sochi. They are familiar with each other and that could offer an edge.
Canada is riding a string of international successes so a win keeps that ball and their momentum rolling. For Team Europe, after their losses to Team North America in the exhibition games, there may be just a little more to prove.
Regardless of this game’s outcome, there is a chance either team can see Sweden, Russia, or those sassy kids from Team North America. At that point, there’s strength all around and some hefty competition for both Group A clubs going into the semi-finals.