Canada v Europe – World Cup of Hockey Final (Game 1) – Air Canada Centre, Toronto at 01:00 live on Premier Sports
I had a mixed bag for my Semi-Final predictions over the weekend. I was spot on for the Canada/Russia game with over 5.5 goals and Canada winning by a two-goal margin (5-3). On the other hand, the second semi-final between Europe and Sweden didn’t go as I predicted, although I did say that it’ll be close, which it was. The game went into Overtime and Team Europe were the surprising victors by a score line of 3-2.
[expand title=”Read More…” swaptitle=”Hide” trigpos=”below” rel=”star-highlander” ]
Having got past their tricky encounter against the Russians, the Canadians will relish the series against Europe , Canada have steamrolled through their opponents with relative ease. Head Coach Mike Babcock has found the perfect chemistry with his lines. The top forward line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Sidney Crosby has been the best at the tournament with 16 points between them in just four games.
Although they conceded three in the semis, the Canadian defence has been impressive. Shea Weber and Marc-Edouard Vlasic nullified Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin who had few goal scoring opportunities. Huge credit must go to Babcock and his coaching staff as they have prepped their team to perfection and are reaping the rewards for it. There was a huge backlash in their decision to snub defence-men P.K Subban and Kris Letang in favour of the more conservative duo of Jay Bouwmeester (who replaced Duncan Keith) and Jake Muzzin.
The surprise party of this tournament. The team that has consistently been labelled the underdog in each of their four games are now in the final. Not bad for a team ridiculed as ‘Team Leftovers’. They had the longest odds at 33/1 and now only Canada stand in their way to achieving the unthinkable.
Their head coach Ralph Krueger, has postponed his day-to-day duties as the chairman of Southampton. He has galvanised his team to the promised land. The former Edmonton Oilers coach praised his players for facing up to adversity, not only in this tournament but throughout their careers. “We’ve just got a whole locker room full of guys that have had to fight to get here and had to fight to stay. But, in the end, they’re NHL players and they’re great NHL players.”
Each time Europe has triumphed over their opponent, the pundits have said how the losing side wasn’t on form or weren’t playing to the level that their capable of. At first, you could think this was true, but it’s no fluke that Europe are in the final. The Europeans will be without veteran winger Marian Gaborik due to a lower-body injury he sustained in the semis.
Sidney Crosby (Canada)
Captain Crosby has delivered once again on the big stage. Having looked so bereft of confidence in the first half of last season, the Pittsburgh Penguin has enhanced his reputation as the best player in the world. This will conclude a fantastic year for him having won the Stanley Cup in June with the Penguins. If he maintains his tremendous form he’ll duly receive the MVP award
Brad Marchand (Canada)
Marchand has excelled playing with the aforementioned Crosby. The Boston Bruins agitator scored 2 goals in the 5-3 defeat of Russia combining with him on both goals. He’s a unique player in the fact that he can do all the dirty work and be offensively effective as well. Expect him to ruffle a few European feathers (and hearts) in this series
Tomas Tatar (Europe)
The Slovakian was excellent in the semi-final overtime win over Sweden. The Swedes could not live with the speed of Tatar that eventually cost them the chance to compete in the final. After scoring his first two goals in the tournament,the Red Wing will be baying for Canadian blood
Dennis Seidenberg (Europe)
Seidenberg nearly cost his side the game with a lapse in concentration, with his experience he then recovered the puck in the same passage of play. The veteran is seeking a new club, after being bought of his contract by the Boston Bruins that ending a 7-year spell in Massachusetts. He’ll be on a couple of teams’ radars having produced solid displays for Team Europe.
Despite the fact that Europe have made it this far, I cannot see Canada losing any games in the series. They defeated the Europeans 4-1 in the round robin and were untroubled in that match. A one-game series would of favoured Europe, as anything can happen in one game, but in a three game series, I believe that Canada have got this one sewn up.
Canada to win the series 2-0
Game 1 Recommendation: Under 5.5 goals @ 2.20 with Unibet
Prices correct at time of writing.