Team Europe looked like an awful idea early on, but Ralph Krueger’s group shocked Sweden — and almost everyone else — by battling their way to a berth in the World Cup final.
Organizers of the World Cup of Hockey might want to get some kind of anthem together for Team Europe. You know, just in case.
Chances are, even after Europe’s 3-2 overtime win over Sweden in the World Cup of Hockey semifinal Sunday afternoon, the team with no country will not be able to beat Team Canada twice to take the title next week. But given that almost nobody predicted it would get this far, well, you never know.
Who would have thought that eight days after the tournament began, Team Europe would be in the semifinal and Tomas Tatar would score at the 3:43 mark of overtime to send it to the final? Just shows that anything can happen in this game, and sometimes does.
Give Team Europe its due credit. It was taken to the woodshed by Team North America in its first pre-tournament game, then found itself behind 5-1 to the kids after the first period of its second pre-tournament game. But since then, Team Europe has been a consistent, if unspectacular, force in the proceedings.
Against Sweden, Team Europe played the way it had to in order to be successful. It played a cautious style, waiting for its opportunities to create offense off the transition. And it worked, with Marian Gaborik tying the score 1-1 in the second period, then Tatar scoring the winner just 12 seconds into the third period.
The Swedes, on the other hand, have no excuse for the way they played. This is a squad whose senior advisors are Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson and Nicklas Lidstrom. It has some outstanding offensive talent and an explosive defense corps. And it played a style that was passive and boring and, ultimately, destined to fail. And when it happened, anyone who enjoys the more creative side of hockey should have cheered. Loudly.
During an intermission interview with Scott Oake of Hockey Night in Canada after the first period, Gabriel Landeskog summed up the Swedes’ approach to the game, along with pretty much everything that is wrong with hockey. “We kind of stood around waiting for each other,” he said. “But this is the semifinal of the World Cup of Hockey. You’re not going to give them anything just to play a beautiful game.”
It was anything but a beautiful game, but it was enough to send Team Europe to the final of a tournament and put itself in a position almost nobody thought it would be when the tournament started.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.