Game 1 of the World Cup of Hockey Final pits the tournament favourite Team Canada against seemingly their least likely final-two opponent at the tournament’s outset in Team Europe.

Puck drop: 8 p.m. EST, Sportsnet

Team Canada made quick work of Team Europe in group stage, outshooting the Europeans 46-20 and winning the game 4-1. They enter this game 6:1 favourites.

Everybody’s favourite whipping target after the initial pretournament loss to Team North America, Team Europe has relied its collective experience, Ralph Krueger’s systems and strong goaltending from Jaroslav Halak to get past both Team USA and Team Sweden en route to an unlikely finals berth. This certainly isn’t the storybook final matchup, but there’s something to be said for a team of players that had the least familiarity with one another going into the tournament coalescing under good coaching and an underdog mentality.

Common sense predicts a Canadian two-game sweep, but Krueger knows Mike Babcock’s systems well — having coached alongside him in Sochi, where Babcock relied on Krueger’s expertise on tactics for the international ice surface — and he’s also beat Canada before with far less talent at his disposal back when Team Switzerland upset the Canadians in Turin in 2006.

The backbone of Krueger’s team is the one-two of Anze Kopitar and Frans Nilesen at center, two of the more reliable two-way centers in the game, along with Roman Josi anchoring the team’s top pairing on the blueline. The challenge for Krueger and Team Europe is, of course, accounting for the fact that there are three other “first” lines on Canada outside of the seemingly unstoppable Crosby line. There won’t be many surprises from Mike Babcock; rolling elite line after elite line over the boards for 35-40 second, relentlessly high-paced shifts has been the formula and it’s effectively laid waste to all opponents and goaltenders in its wake.

It’ll take a magical day, it’ll take a world-class goaltending performance, it’ll take something very, very special for anyone to beat Canada

– Ralph Krueger

Team Canada Projected Lineup

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Brad MarchandSidney CrosbyPatrice Bergeron
John TavaresRyan GetzlafSteven Stamkos
Logan CoutureJonathan ToewsCorey Perry
Joe ThorntonRyan O'ReillyMatt Duchene
Left DefenceRight Defence
Alex PietrangeloBrent Burns
Marc-Edward VlasicShea Weber
Jay BoumeesterDrew Doughty
Carey Price

Team Europe Projected Lineup

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Tomas TatarAnze KopitarMarian Hossa
Nino NiederreiterFrans NielsenMats Zuccarello
Thomas VanekLeon DraisaitlTobias Rieder
Mikkel BoedkerPierre-Edouard BellemareJannik Hansen
Left DefenseRight Defense
Zdeno CharaAndrej Sekera
Roman JosiDennis Seidenberg
Christian EhrhoffMark Streit
Jaroslav Halak
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