Europe vs. Canada: What to watch in World Cup of Hockey finals
TORONTO — Canada, as expected, is in the World Cup of Hockey finals.
Team Europe, an unexpected contender, also is in the best-of-three series.
''Nobody would guess we could be in the final,'' Marian Hossa said after helping Europe beat Sweden 3-2 Sunday in the semifinals. ''It was 33-to-1 odds against us.''
The host Canadians, heavy favorites, will play a team made up of eight European countries playing with a tremendous amount of collective pride and a unique sense of community in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
Here are some things to watch when the puck drops:
THEY'RE STREAKING: Canada had won 14 straight games in best-on-best tournaments since losing to the U.S. in the preliminary round of the 2010 Olympics. With superstar Sidney Crosby, who has a World Cup-best seven points, it is difficult to envision any team beating them. Even if Europe can win a game to stop the impressive streak, which is like the Americans' run in Olympic basketball, that won't be enough because the Canadians will have to be beaten twice to prevent them from winning the World Cup.
BETWEEN THE PIPES: Both teams have a standout goaltender they can lean on in must-win situations. Canada's Carey Price has quieted questions about his health, overcoming a right knee injury that kept him of the Montreal Canadiens' lineup for much of last season. He helped the Canadians win gold two years ago and is two wins away from adding to his legacy. Team Europe is among the last two playing in the eight-team field in large part because it has goalie Jaroslav Halak. The Slovak made 37 saves against Sweden.
MIGHTY MARCHAND: Canada's Brad Marchand, taking advantage of playing on Sidney Crosby's line, has three goals and five points in four games. Crosby and teammate Jonathan Toews are the two players in the star-studded field with as many goals and only Crosby has more points.
KOPITAR WATCH: Team Europe's best skater, Slovenia's Anze Kopitar, has not scored a goal in the tournament. He did, however, have two assists in the semifinals to increase his point total to three. If the Europeans are going to stun Canada with at least one win, the Los Angeles Kings star will likely have to score.
COACHING CONNECTIONS: Europe's coach, Ralph Krueger, got a much-needed call from Canada coach Mike Babcock shortly after being let go by the Edmonton Oilers after leading them to a 19-22-7 mark during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. ''When I was fired in Edmonton sitting on my daughter's bed on Skype, Mike called me 12 hours later to ask me to come to the Olympic Games with Canada, so that's Mike Babcock,'' Krueger recalled.
DEPTH OF FIELD: The one advantage Canada will have in the finals, without a doubt, is their depth. Canada can and will roll four lines of forwards and three pairs of defensemen without a discernible dropoff.
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