“Oh please, please, please hockey gods. Please make it so that Finland beats Russia on Thursday,” said every Canadian hockey fan.
With its 4-1 win over Team Europe in the final preliminary game of the World Cup of Hockey, Canada fulfilled its destiny as the class of the tournament and the benchmark by which every remaining team will measure itself. Whether Team North America is one of those teams will be determined Thursday afternoon when Russia faces Finland. A Finnish victory and the World Cup gets a dream matchup in the semifinal – Canada against Team North America – and boy, oh boy, won’t that be fun?
(And before we get too, too carried away with the thought of North America beating Canada, sure it could happen. But remember, Team Canada is Team North America eight years ago.)
Canada, which sat out No. 1 goalie Carey Price, frontline defenseman Shea Weber and center Ryan Getzlaf, treated its win over Team Europe like the formality it was. Jonathan Toews, with two, and Sidney Crosby and Logan Couture with one, provided all the offense Canada needed and with Corey Crawford tending the crease, he barely broke a sweat.
One thing we know with one day remaining in the preliminary round – that Sweden (first in Group B) will play Team Europe (second in Group A) in one semifinal. It will be an intriguing matchup and likely not a repeat of their pre-tournament game when Team Europe dominated Sweden in a 6-2 win. Many of the Team Europe players, accustomed to being beaten by Sweden in other international competitions, were thrilled to win that game. Although it will give them some confidence going into the semifinal, Sweden will be a tough out with that defense and the goaltending Henrik Lundqvist has supplied them the past two games.
Canada, meanwhile, will face either Russia or North America in the other semifinal. The matchup against North America would just be too delicious to even contemplate. Russia is always an intriguing draw for Canada, even if the rivalry has lost some of its luster over the years. Either Russia or North America would require a superhuman effort to defeat Canada, a team that has spent all of the tournament toying with its opponents. This could be another one of those tournaments where we could count the number of goals Canada gives up on one hand.