So, uh... just like the NHL drew it up, right?
As expected, the three-game final of the World Cup of Hockey will feature the two playoff teams from Group A. That was the group that was built around Team Canada and Team USA, and sure seemed to have been designed specifically to get those two rivals into a marquee final matchup that would pack the building, boost TV ratings and have sports fans all around North America buzzing.
Canada held up its end of the bargain, running the table in the round robin and then beating Russia on Saturday night. But Team USA's grit-induced meltdown became the story of the tournament, and it opened the door for Team Europe to sneak into the playoff round instead. They then went into Sunday's matchup with Sweden as a heavy underdog, only to come through with a shocking 3-2 overtime win.
That would be the same Team Europe that many fans didn't want to see in the event at all, given that the whole point of the tournament is supposed to be finding hockey's top nation, and "Europe" isn't one. The same was true of the 23-and-under Team North America, of course, but at least those kids were fun. This European mash-up couldn't even settle on an anthem to play.
But now Team Europe is in the final, two wins away from being crowned international hockey's greatest... whatever they are. And all that's standing in their way is Team Canada. Sure, it seems like a tall order, but when you weren't even supposed to exist in the first place, winning two hockey games shouldn't seem all that tough.
Game 1 goes Tuesday night. Game 2 is on Thursday. And Game 3, if necessary, will be played Saturday. Spoiler alert: It won't be, but we'll get to that. Let's take a look at our two finalists.