After 16 tournament contests, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey has concluded. It ended in a more dramatic way than anyone predicted.
Team Canada defeated Team Europe Thursday night, 2-1, after scoring both goals 2:09 apart with under three minutes remaining in the third period. Team Europe defenseman Zdeno Chara’s first period goal looked like it might have been enough, but Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand added tallies late to seal the deal for Canada, who took the best-of-three series, two games to none.
Marchand scored to WIN Canada the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. https://t.co/7slT7R7AYt
— LFU (@LeafsFansUnited) September 30, 2016
Canada’s win was a surprise to no one. The lineup was stacked top-to-bottom like an NHL All-Star Team, with captain Sidney Crosby, named the tournament MVP, leading the tournament in assists (7) and points (10), while also posting a tournament-best plus-8 rating. Carey Price was spectacular when called upon, leading the tournament netminders in goals-against average (1.40) and save percentage (.957).
Outside of the you-guessed-it winner, there was much learned from this battle of hockey’s greatest.
Crosby is the Best Player in the World
Love him or hate him, he produces results.
Despite a dip in production due to injury from 2010-2013, Crosby has been hockey’s marquee player since joining the NHL in 2005-06. The Pittsburgh Penguins captain led his team to a Stanley Cup Final after his third NHL season (2008), then took them back to win the Stanley Cup the following postseason (2009).
He scored 19 points in 24 games this past postseason, winning his second NHL championship as captain of the Penguins.
He has tallied five 100-point seasons, along with capturing nine major individual trophies, including the Hart Memorial Trophy (twice) and the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Internationally, he scored the tournament-winning overtime goal in the 2010 Vancouver Games, winning his first gold medal. He captured a second with Canada in 2014, scoring a goal in the final game against Sweden. Now, he adds a World Cup to his winning resume.
Crosby lifting some more trophies pic.twitter.com/uPPU4o4ar1
— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 30, 2016
The swift-skating center is also just 29-years-old, meaning there are plenty of meaningful games left in the superstar’s career.
Team Europe Had Plenty of Fight
You’ve seen the headlines for the past week. Team Europe doesn’t belong here.
They were a ragtag team put together by the NHL braintrust in order to fill an eighth team in the tournament. They were a group of players not expected to really compete with Canada and Sweden, let alone the USA (who they shut out in the opening game of the tournament).
Team Europe’s roster didn’t agree with that sentiment.
Although they allowed 222 shots against in the tournament, which is an average of 37 shots against per game, Europe played a defensive system that helped create odd-man rushes in their favor. When these happened, they capitalized and didn’t stray away from their gameplan.
Jaroslav Halak was brilliant in the tournament, shaking off any rust he may have had from his injury earlier this year. If not for his dynamic saves in net, Europe likely would not have advanced past the semifinals. He caused Canada fits in the final two games as it looked like Europe might steal one of the two, which would have forced a winner-take-all Game 3 Saturday night in Toronto.
The Future is Bright for USA and Canada
Even though they didn’t advance to the semifinal round, Team North America was arguably the most fun spectacle of the World Cup. Their speed, tenacity and drive was on center stage in all three of their contests.
If they could have defeated Team Russia in overtime in the preliminary round, they would have had a date with Canada in the semifinals. What a memorable match that would have been.
The under-23 team will see most of these players graduate past the cutoff age by the time the next World Cup rolls around, meaning that Canada and the USA will have an abundance of talent to choose from.
This means a lot more to the U.S. squad, who went winless and scored just five goals in three games.
Auston Matthews, the 2016 No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft, is one American player to get excited about. The talented forward let his skill speak for itself in his goal against Team Sweden.
Yes, the goal was just a rebound goal, but what about that play before the pass to Morgan Rielly? Keep in mind, that defenseman he works through is elite blueliner Victor Hedman.
The U.S. team could have used hands like that in any of their preliminary games.
When is the Next World Cup of Hockey?
During Game 2 of the Canada and Europe final, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman joined ESPN announcers Steve Levy and Barry Melrose in the booth to discuss the World Cup of Hockey and the future of the tournament.
He gave scenarios that it could be every three years, four years or five years, but stated that the league had not decided on a specific plan for the future. Judging by other sports competitions, such as the Olympics and World Cup of Soccer, four years seems to be the likeliest answer.
Bettman also would not comment on whether NHL players will compete in the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Did you enjoy our coverage of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey? Stay tuned to Everything Hockey throughout the 2016-17 NHL season for more exclusive content!
Feature photo courtesy Mark Williams | Flickr
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