TORONTO -- After 13 months of preparation and practicing, the World Cup of Hockey championship will be decided in a three-game series between Team Canada and Team Europe beginning Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
It might not seem like a perfect championship matchup between the powerhouse Canadians and the underdogs of Europe, but this has the potential to be a fun finals. On paper, the Canadians are stronger, deeper, more talented and playing great hockey in this best-on-best tournament.
The Europeans, representing eight countries, have formed a cohesive unit and surprised the entire hockey world that it was able to win and reach the finals, especially with a victory over Team Sweden in the semifinals. The one thing Team Europe is banking on is its pride, knowing this team will never exist again. Talk to any of the players on that team, and to a man, they all believe they can beat Canada.
However, this could be the greatest collection of hockey talent Canada has ever had on one roster. If this was a one-game, winner-take-all situation, Europe could pull out a stunner, but no way it does that in a three-game set. Europe goaltender Jaroslav Halak will need to be the best player on the ice to keep his team in this series.
Line match: From top to bottom, there's no denying Canada's potent lineup. Its top line of Brad Marchand, Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron has been outstanding. Crosby has three goals and four assists for seven points in four games, while Marchand has three goals and two assists for five points, and Bergeron has two goals and two assists for four points. The chemistry that line has created is off the charts. Even if Europe tries to focus on that line to shut it down (likely using Zdeno Chara on Crosby), then Europe still needs to worry about Canada's other three lines, which are just as dangerous offensively. Europe received an important offensive surge by Tomas Tatar, who had two goals against Sweden in the semifinals.