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World Cup of Hockey

Five storylines from World Cup final

Team Canada and Team Europe begin best-of-3 series on Tuesday

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TORONTO -- And now it's down to two, a favorite and a shocking underdog.

Team Canada was supposed to get to the best-of-3 final in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and it did with relative ease, winning four consecutive games in regulation by a combined 19-6 while trailing for 2:41 of the 240 minutes it has played.

Team Europe was not expected to get this far, but it opened the tournament with a 3-0 win against Team USA and followed that with a 3-2 overtime win against Team Czech Republic. It got to the final by defeating Team Sweden 3-2 in overtime Sunday.

Team Canada will try to win its third straight best-on-best international tournament; Team Europe will try to win perhaps the only international tournament it will ever exist for starting with Game 1 at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Here are five storylines to follow going into the final:

 

1. No past, no future, just now

Team Europe, the Cinderella story of the World Cup, has a unique advantage going into the final, one that it has been using for motivation since the tournament began.

"Because we have no past and we have no future, we are really capable of being in the now," coach Ralph Krueger said. "I think the better we do, the lower the chances might be that Team Europe gets invited back. That's a joke, but it's the opportunity in this that we've tapped into."

The opportunity in front of Team Europe now is great and also unique because Krueger might be right in his assessment here. This might quite literally be a one-of-a-kind team, which makes Team Europe's story even more compelling.

Will Slovenia's Anze Kopitar ever play an international tournament with Slovakia's Marian Hossa and Tomas Tatar on his wings? Probably not, but Kopitar, Hossa, Tatar and all of Team Europe's players and coaches will walk together forever if they pull off this massive upset.

That's a storyline worth following. We may never get the chance to follow one like it again.

Video: EUR@SWE: Tatar capitalizes for overtime winner

 

2. Canada's Sweet 16

Is it possible that this generation of hockey players is the best in Canada's history?

It'll be hard to argue against that if Team Canada wins the final, especially if it wins it in two games.

Team Canada has won 14 consecutive games in best-on-best tournaments. Two more and it will win its third straight best-on-best tournament with coach Mike Babcock behind the bench and Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber and Drew Doughty in the lineup for every game.

"It's all about the next one," Crosby said.

Video: RUS@CAN: Crosby steals the puck and scores

 

3. Friends turned foes, for now

Krueger was a special advisor to Babcock and Team Canada's coaching staff for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Babcock credited him with keeping up on scouting the opposition, both in North America and abroad, while the rest of the members of the staff focused on their NHL teams.

Now Krueger and Babcock will coach against each other for the right to win the first best-on-best international tournament since they worked together to help Canada win gold in Sochi.

The mutual respect they have for one another is as strong as the bond they formed two years ago.

"When I was fired in Edmonton (on June 8, 2013) sitting on my daughter's bed on Skype, Mike called me 12 hours later to ask me to come to the Olympic Games with Canada," Krueger said. "That's Mike Babcock.

"After that it was really intense, actually. We would run together. We would speak about hockey nonstop together, and it was the best coaching clinic I could go through with Claude Julien, Ken Hitchcock, Lindy Ruff and Mike Babcock. From the draft in [Newark, N.J.] right through the Olympic Games, I was with them. The only thing that was sad about it was I didn't know where I was going to use it because I was in [English] football. That learning process with Mike and his staff is really a lot of what I brought into Team Europe."

 

4. Halak vs. Price

Six years ago, before Team Canada goalie Carey Price became the Carey Price we all know now in the NHL, he was in tandem with another goalie and the Montreal Canadiens basically had to make a decision on which one to keep.

The other goalie: Team Europe starter Jaroslav Halak.

The Canadiens clearly made the right choice for them since Price has since become arguably the best goalie in the world, but Halak is no slouch and he's been as good as Price in this tournament. He's been far busier too.

Halak has a .947 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average in four games totaling 245 minutes. He has one shutout. He's faced the most shots of any goalie in the tournament (150) and has the most saves (142).

Video: EUR@SWE: Halak stones Backstom on 2-on-1 in overtime

Price has appeared in three games (he did not play against Halak and Team Europe in the preliminary round) and has a .948 save percentage and 1.67 GAA. He has faced 97 shots, 53 fewer than Halak.

"I think there's going to be a personal … I don't want to say rivalry, but both guys know who's at the other end," Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong said. "We're very comfortable with our goalie, and I know they're very comfortable with their goalie, so it should be very interesting."

The irony is that it was Armstrong who pulled Halak out of Montreal with a trade. He brought him to the St. Louis Blues, where he won 83 games over four seasons. He knows him well.

"He sort of stays to himself, and I think in something like this, he doesn't get rattled," Armstrong said. "He doesn't look for the limelight. He probably stays away from it. So he just comes in and does his business and goes home. I think that fits in very well to a team like the European team where they're all getting to know each other. He can just come in and do his job, and he's doing it very well right now."

Video: CZE@CAN: Price denies Palat with a right pad save

 

5. Josi vs. Weber

Team Europe defenseman Roman Josi and Team Canada defenseman Shea Weber will get their first chance to see what it's like to play against each other in Game 1 on Tuesday.

Weber and Josi formed the Nashville Predators' top defense pair until Weber was traded to the Canadiens for P.K. Subban on June 29. Weber did not play in Team Canada's 5-3 win against Team Europe in the preliminary round.

In this tournament, Josi and Weber have become the top shutdown defensemen on their respective teams and likely will be tasked with similar roles in the final. Expect to see Josi get a lot of ice time against Team Canada's top line of Crosby, Bergeron and Brad Marchand and Weber to get a lot of minutes against Team Europe's top line of Kopitar, Hossa and Tatar.

To get to the final, Josi played a game-high 29:00 for Team Europe against Team Sweden on Sunday and Weber played a game-high 22:41 against Team Russia on Saturday. Weber and defense partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic helped limit Alex Ovechkin to one shot on goal.

Josi has gotten the most ice time of any skater in Team Europe's past three games, totaling 82:36 of ice time. Weber has played 64:13 in three games.

Video: EUR@NAT: Nielsen finishes off pretty passing play

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