When the World Cup began earlier this month, Team Europe, a collection of players from eight European countries that did not have their own team in the tournament, was thought to be the weakest team in the field.
Not necessarily a bad team, but one that seemed like it would have trouble keeping up with the hockey superpowers that made up the remainder of the field. That thinking seemed to be confirmed in the pre-tournament games when the North American young stars team skated them out of the building in what the European team admitted was a wakeup call.
All of that is why they still have to actually play the games, and in a short tournament like this anything can happen.
In this case, anything did happen.
Thanks to their 3-2 overtime win over Team Sweden on Sunday afternoon in the World Cup semifinals, Team Europe has clinched a spot in the World Cup final series and will take on Canada in a best-of-three round that begins on Tuesday night.
It’s been an incredible and almost unbelievable run so far Europe. They frustrated the United States in their opener and shut them out, beat the Czech Republic in overtime, and then on Sunday shut down Sweden to advance to the final.
The biggest part of their success has to be the play of their goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who has been their best player the entire tournament.
On Sunday, he stopped 37 out of 39 shots and improved his save percentage in the tournament to .946.
The other big star for Team Europe on Sunday was Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar who scored a pair of goals, including the overtime winner.
After Marian Gaborik scored late in the second period to tie the game at one, Tatar opened the third period with a goal just 12 seconds in when he followed up his own shot and beat Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist to give Europe its first lead of the game.
Sweden’s Erik Karlsson scored late in the third period to send the game to overtime.
Europe now haas to get ready to face a Canadian team that is 4-0 in the tournament and outscored its opponents by a 19-6 margin.
Canada beat Europe in the first round 4-1.
With their former captain now a member of the Boston Bruins and their coach on year-to-year deals, it’s appropriate to say that the St. Louis Blues are in a period of transitions.
It’s also a convenient choice of words, as it sounds like the Blues are going to change the way they transition on the ice.
That’s the indication given by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and players like Chris Porter approve.
“The play in the neutral zone will fit this team great with the speed and the size that they already have in place,” Porter said. “I don’t think it’s a huge adjustment for the guys, I think it’s just a little tweak here or there.”
Perhaps hiring Mike Yeo had something to do with taking a more modern approach?
Either way, getting more aggressive makes a lot of sense for the Blues, at least on paper.
Of course, there’s a give-and-take when it comes to situations like these, and becoming more attack-minded sure makes retaining Kevin Shattenkirk that much more important. The underrated blueliner still expects to be moved despite being named an alternate captain, yet you wonder if these changes might prompt GM Doug Armstrong to try to pull some strings to keep him around.
Even if the Blues eventually need to part ways with Shattenkirk, there are some other nice assets who can use this change as a catalyst to push this team up another level.
In an ideal scenario, the Blues would enjoy those improvements and keep Shattenkirk to reap those rewards.
Rough news for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday: forward Clarke MacArthur needed help off the ice following a big hit during a team scrimmage.
MacArthur has been hoping to return to NHL action after some serious concussion issues, so this is a troubling situation. More than a few people wonder if this might end his career.
Update: Here’s a GIF of the hit.
Robin Lehner is a big goalie, and barring possible language barrier issues, sure seems to have a pretty big personality.
That at least seems to be the case with the Buffalo Sabres’ top guy, who provided the Buffalo News’ John Vogl with a great quote:
“There’s a lot of pressure on me, and that’s fine. … I know I’m a good goaltender,” Lehner said.
As much as the Sabres feel like a work in progress, acquiring Lehner was one of GM Tim Murray’s boldest moves. Murray was able to observe Lehner in Ottawa, and despite some struggles, the big Swede (6-foot-5, 240 lbs.) was sneaky-good in 2015-16.
Twenty-one games serves as a limited sample size, yet a .924 save percentage seems quite promising. His 107 career regular season games are spread over six seasons, so to some extent, the 25-year-old is still something of an unknown entity.
If nothing else, it looks like he could provide some Bryzgalovian entertainment.
Back in March, Ben Scrivens admitted he was happy to avoid a fight with a guy he called a “bit of a psycho.”
Sounds like a guy to watch.