The CBC broadcast crew called them ‘hockey nomads,’ but they have now secured a place: the finals of 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Team Europe, the NHL player nomads from nations not invited to the tournament defeated Team Sweden 3-2 in overtime. This was certainly not the result many were expecting, either Team Sweden losing this game, or Team Europe making it this far in the tournament.
Indeed, last summer when the idea was first floated, Team Europe was thought of as a bit of a joke. They were only a novelty; invented by the NHL so they could squeeze in as many players as possible for an extra paycheque, and would amount to nothing.
Instead they now will face Team Canada in the best of three final series.
A lot of credit for their success goes to Jaroslav Halak from Slovakia, especially today, where he stopped 37 of 39 shots on goal for a 0.944 sv%. Another great performance was his shutout of Team USA back on September 17.
Today’s game was billed as a defensive battle between two teams who knew each other well, the game mostly fit that mold, with either side occasionally raising the temperature of their offence, especially in the third period.
Both teams top lines played well; Tatar-Kopitar-Hossa for Europe, and Sedin-Sedin-Eriksson for Sweden. Erik Karlsson was also a standout player on Sweden’s defence. Team Europe's fourth line stood out as well, particularly Pierre-Edouard Bellemare helping out a lot on offence.
My game log notes
19:50 Hjalmarsson gets the puck down low in the corner where it finds Forsberg who passes it back up to Backstrom. He’s being covered by almost everyone from Team Europe on the ice, but he somehow manages to pass it over to Hornqvist, forgotten and in front of the net. Hossa sees what is about to happen, but it's too late, and Hornqvist gets off a clear shot. Fortunately for Team Europe, Halak stops it.
19:38 Hossa carries the puck in on an attack and passes up to Tatar, who is ahead of the defenders, Hedman and Stralman. Tatar gets off a great shot on Lundqvist, but the rebound goes clear of the net on the opposite side and there’s no one from Team EU to recover it.
19:25 All five Team Sweden players go down into the corner behind their net to chase three from Team Europe. This leaves Seidenberg open and of course he gets a pass back from his teammates. He gets off a clean shot, but Lundqvist stops it.
18:32 It was less than 2 minutes into the game before they started flipping to weird camera angles during play.
18:14 First broken stick of this game goes to Christian Ehrhoff.
17:57 Landeskog surprises Team Europe jumping into the play on a line change, receiving a pass almost in the attacking zone and getting a breakaway. I recall Team Europe had a problem with players jumping in on line changes in the pre-tournament games too.
17:13 There is a lot of shouting in Swedish which makes me wonder what language is Team Europe using. Are they sticking with English?
15:11 Team Europe takes their first penalty. The Swedes seem to be having a problem with turnovers and keeping control. I see Bellemare is doing a great job of tripping up the Sedins. Karlsson does a great job carrying it in to the zone, and passes it off to Forsberg, but Team Europe keep getting after them and taking away the puck. When they do get off shots they are clappers from back near the blue line and they miss the net.
13:15 Great play by Hedman carrying it in for an attack and outrunning Hossa who didn't try too hard to stop him. He made it all the way to the net and took a shot from a bad angel. I think he was hoping Halak would a rebound which could be shot in by Landeskog who was there waiting by that point.
12:35 Gaborik easily fights off Berglund to pick-up the puck behind the net and gets it back out in front and takes a shot on Lundqvist. Berglund seems a little upset he was so easily outmaneuvered and shoves Gaborik.
12:15 Hagelin gets off a shot, which reminds me I didn't notice him much of the rest of the game. That's surprising as he made a good impression on me through the whole of each previous Sweden game.
10:28 Team Europe defence really caught flat-footed by Backstrom and Hedman who gets off a shot on Halak. The rebound is just sitting out there waiting for someone to take it. Seidenberg over-skated and is trying to turn around while Roman Josi is simply staring at it and Forsberg waltzes up, grabs it, and takes it for a spin around the net where it's passed to Berglund through the crease, but he can't get it. They got really lucky there.
8:58 Oh there's Hagelin again. Kruger receives a gift from the hockey gods of a comical Team Europe turnover right in front of the net. He shoots, hoping Hagelin can tip it in, but it happened too fast for him to be able to make that play.
6:55 Karlsson blows away Seidenberg here and gets the puck down low. He passes and then is so fast getting back at the blue line to keep retrieving pucks and shooting them back down to the Swedish attackers. Broadcasters give all the credit to the Sedins, but it was Karlsson driving this one.
5:00 The last 5 or 6 minutes are mostly back and forth rushes, or plays that get tied up in the neutral zone and are turned over. Lundqvist has to make one big stop with Kopitar in front of the net and him not being sure exactly where the puck has gone.
The game has been quiet. So far....
17:30 - Stralman shoots at the net through traffic, Hornqvist at the front of the net but misses, Backstrom skates in and gets the rebound. Kopitar tried to stop Backstrom but he was too late and couldn't reach far enough to deflect the puck with his stick.
16:20 Hjalmarsson trips Niederreiter. Europe power play.
15:52 Josi breaks his stick on a slap shot, goes back to bench to replace it but then Kruger starts a breakaway. Josi manages to get the new stick and out run him in time.
13:20 Ekman-Larson falls awkwardly and may be injured. He skated off under his own power, though very gingerly with one leg.
12:30 Tatar breaks Backstrom’s stick to help unclog the puck from a scrum at the boards
Tomas Tatar does not care for your stick placement, Nicklas Backstrom. pic.twitter.com/Ag9IynRFuA— Winging It In Motown (@wingingitmotown) September 25, 2016
12:10 Forsberg pins Gaborik on the boards and doesn't allow him to return to the bench - can't figure out what the problem was - but it causes an interference penalty.
10:35 Sweden knocks the puck down the ice, Halak flubs the play and the puck sits in front of an empty net for what feels like an eternity, but there are no Swedes around...casually skates over and collects it.
9:15 Europe goofs and takes a badly times penalty for too many men on the ice.
8:45 OEL is back on the ice, but he plays a short shift and isn't seen again.
7:40 Henrik Sedin gets lucky hooking Hossa but there is no call for a penalty.
7:15 The power play ends with no goals.
5:39 Hornqvist dumps the puck in the corner for his teammate, falls back to the blue line and then pulls a fast one on Hossa who had turned his back, blowing past him to the center. He gets off a good shot, but it is wide of the net.
5:00 Ekholm cross-checks Hossa a few times behind the Swedish net, and he responds by tripping him and they wind up both taking penalties. 4 on 4
4:00 Ehrhoff is behind the net and passes forward to Gaborik, right in front with a pack of Swedes. The puck hits Gaborik's stick and it winds up deflecting right between Lundqvist’s legs. Lundqvist doesn't get his knees together in time and the puck slips through.
1:00 Hjalmarsson flubs the puck at the board beside Lundqvist and turns it over to Vanek. Vanek gets a free skate to the net and takes a shot but Lundqvist falls on top of it.
19:48 Team Sweden is caught flat-footed. A turnover at the blue line winds up passed over to Tomas Tatar's stick who has a breakaway down the middle on Lundqvist while Hedman is still trying to figure out what the hell happened. Lundqvist tries to glove Tatar's shot but it bounces off of the edge and hits his mask right in the face, and then back down toward Tatar. Lundqvist falls down, Tatar picks up his own rebound and buries it in the net. The whole Swedish team is wondering what the hell just happened.
16:00 Zuccarello penalty - third for Team Europe in the game and the third successfully killed.
13:40 Penalty is over but the Swedes are continuing on attack as though still on a power play. Team Europe is a bit disorganized. There a few shots in the sequence, including one by Henrik Sedin which goes off the post. Finally, Halak gets a chance to cover it up.
12:55 Karlsson blows a tire and falls down just as Zuccarello is bearing down on him and the puck. The puck winds up literally in Karlsson’s lap. He grabs it and tosses it up the ice to a team mate, which should be a penalty, but nothing is called.
11:47 There are five people together in blond wigs in the front row. I want to know who they are supposed to be.
10:30 A breakaway by Vanek from a Niederreiter pass and he almost gets it in the net. That would have really put Team Sweden in a tough spot.
9:45 Zuccarello checks poor OEL with his back while facing away from him. Basically, OEL, who is five inches taller and at least 20 pounds heavier, bounces off Zuccarello, goes flying, and rolls over on the ice two full rotations. Zuccarello stares in disbelief at that and then laughs at OEL.
8:45 D. Sedin finds a clear path for a shot off a face-off and forces Halak to think fast and make quick leg pad save.
7:00 Backstrom loose puck shot on Halak. Sweden is cranking up the offence and aggressive play. Hornqvist literally sitting on Josi right now.
4:32 Karlsson shot from the blueline deflected in front of the net by Roman Josi and Sweden ties it.
0:20 The Sedin line makes a last minute attempt to break the tie with two shots on Halak, but they can't get it in. We're going to OT.
18:45 Ekholm gets off the first big shot of overtime. Henrik Sedin is along the boards and passes over to Daniel Sedin in the center. The puck is bouncy, possibly deflected up, and Daniel can’t grab it. Too bad for him as he would have had a great shot. The puck continues on for Ekholm to make a shot. Eriksson is in place right in front of the net but Halak quickly covers it.
16:18 Tatar carries in the puck along the boards and runs into traffic from Forsberg and Hedman. He passes it back to Kopitar who dumps it in. The puck flies to the corner and then around the back of the net. Lundqvist lets it go seeing Stralman available to pick it up. What Lundqvist doesn't see is Zuccarello barelling down the ice toward Stralman. Zuccarello grabs the puck before Stralman can get control and passes it over to Tatar who sends Team Europe to the final.
Unfortunately, Team Europe ruined the moment by doing this.