The threat of prolonging this tournament to Saturday night was looming, as Team Europe was playing their brand of shutdown hockey to an absolute tee, thanks to the broad shoulders (and other padded areas) of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was dynamite on Thursday night.
The Europeans were dead set on grinding this game to an absolute halt, especially after they were able to poke through with the game's opening goal, thanks to a great rush from Zdeno Chara and his slightly deflected shot, finding its way past Carey Price, less than seven minutes into the contest. It was then all hands on deck, as the Europeans clogged the neutral zone and collapsed in front of their own net, aiding their red-hot keeper, as best as they could.
Through two periods, there was very little sense of urgency out of the Canadians, their numerous power plays didn't quite have the zip of a team down a goal and the chance of taking home the championship in their back pocket. No, it really seemed like there was an ambivalence about them, which was okay to let this one slip and play an even bigger game on Saturday.
Unfortunately for Europe, there was one penalty too many and it was their best forward, Anze Kopitar, heading to the box, late in the 3rd period and the tide was turned and it carried the whole game out with it. A point shot on the power play from Brent Burns, deflected by Patrice Bergeron, eluded Halak and it was that redirection that knotted up the game at 1-1 and Canada had life, with less than three to go.
Two minutes later, 44 seconds to go, the puck crossed the European line again, thanks to a shorthanded marker from Brad Marchand, as he took a drop pass from Jonathan Toews, Europe already on their heels and it was a top shelf beauty and all the European hearts were broken. The game didn't even require overtime, it was all done in regulation and the game, the tournament, was over.
Well, I think this tournament was already long over, before the finals had even gotten started, as Dale's motivation to pick a few starting goalies in the pool, not to mention grabbing the two Bruins on the champion's top line certainly didn't hurt his cause any. Dale will walk away with the whole $160 prize, thanks to his team's dominant 21-point win over his nearest competitors.
Thanks to the audit, Neil jumped up to 2nd place on a couple more missed game-winning goals, while Scott dropped down to 3rd, despite losing most of his players after the round robin.
I do think this worked out to be a pretty good pool... just wish there were a few more participants in it. Oh well, next up is the big show! We'll see you in just over a week's time!