Team Canada can complete a perfect ride through the World Cup of Hockey 2016 by defeating Team Europe in Game 2 of the best-of-3 final at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA, TVA Sports).
Team Canada made it five wins in as many tries in the tournament by defeating Team Europe 3-1 in Game 1 on Tuesday. Another victory will give Team Canada a perfect 6-0-0 record in the eight-team tournament.
Here are the reasons for optimism for Team Canada and Team Europe:
Crosby & Co.
The line of Sidney Crosby between Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron has been by far the best at the World Cup. Crosby's nine points (three goals, six assists) lead the tournament. He set up goals by Marchand and Bergeron in Game 1, helping Team Canada survive a slow start.
If there were any doubts that Crosby is the world's best player, he's dispelled them with his play in this tournament.
"There's really not much more that can be said about the player he is," forward Steven Stamkos said. "The guys in our room feel he's the best player in the world, and we're glad he's on our team."
Last line of defense
Team Europe dominated play during the first period of Game 1, generating plenty of scoring chances, but trailed 2-0 as they trudged back to the dressing room. The reason? Goaltender Carey Price was playing up to the level that earned him the Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award in 2015.
"He makes a big save at the right time," Marchand said of Price, who has won 15 consecutive games while playing for Canada in international tournaments. "He always seems to do that."
Team Europe was dominated by Team Canada when they played in the preliminary round. That wasn't the case in Game 1 of the final. Team Europe nearly scored before the game was a minute old, generated plenty of offense, and kept Price busy. The only drawback was that Team Canada did a better job capitalizing on mistakes.
The task for Team Europe in Game 2 is to build on the good things it did in the opener while eliminating the mistakes.
"The mindset is not that you want to have a close game," defenseman Mark Streit said. "The mindset is you want to win the game. We know what we can do. We know what kind of potential we have on our team."
Team Europe has lost twice to Team Canada, but not because it was afraid of the tournament favorite. Team Europe gave Team Canada its toughest game so far in the series opener, and though pulling off the upset is an even taller order now, needing to win back-to-back games, in Toronto, coach Ralph Krueger feels his team has plenty to build on.
"We're playing this game [Thursday] without any fear," Krueger said. "We're going to go head-on again. I thought we were eye to eye with Canada in a lot of situations yesterday and we're proud of that."