World Cup final best of three: Canada vs. Europe

It all comes down... to this?

And there was one... Lightning participant in the World Cup of Hockey.

That lone wolf is Steven Stamkos, whose Team Canada takes on Team Europe in the best-of-three final that begins tonight.

Twelve members of the Lightning (and Jon Cooper) took part in the World Cup, and everyone but the captain has made their way back or are on their way back to Tampa as training camp is currently underway. There are no members of the Lightning on Team Europe.

Here’s what you need to know for the World Cup of Hockey final.

Game times

All games are at Air Canada Center in Toronto, home of the Maple Leafs.

Game 1: Tuesday, Sept 27
8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN

Game 2: Thursday, Sept. 29
8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2

Game 3: Saturday, Oct. 1
7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2

How they got here

Team Canada
Two words: Balanced lineup. Or maybe it’s "fulfilling expectations." Or "duh, obviously." Or, in the words of Wayne Gretzky, "Canada’s been Canada." Wait, that’s three words.

No one really expected Team Canada to not be here, even with the possibility that they could face Team North America in the semifinal. That’s not to discredit the kids, and they certainly could’ve given Canada a run for its money, but it’s hard to believe that at the end of 60 minutes, Canada wouldn’t have found a way to win. See: last game against Russia.

Canada’s depth hasn’t been much of a surprise, but perhaps it’s the way how every line has had their moments of domination that’s been the most impressive.

Health has also been on their side as well. A few players are/have been banged up, but not to the extent that they’d miss out on any games. Just practices.

We’ll be watching for Stamkos of course. And so will everyone else since he’s yet to score a goal. He’s had his chances. Plenty of them. But goals come in bunches, and we’re hoping they start tonight. Besides, we want him out of Mike Babcock’s ire. I mean, look at the image above. That’s some scary stuff right there.

Team Europe
Three words: Kopitar and Krueger.

One is the face of Team Europe and the other is the Hockey Canada-bred coach whose had to adjust the team’s mentality after back-to-back losses to Team North America in exhibition play where they were outscored 11-4 and was shut out the second game. They followed up with another loss, 4-1, against Canada. All hope looked pretty dim, but they somehow managed to turn the page, and it’s been like a business-like attitude since. Much of that credit goes to coaching. And the play of goalie Jaroslav Halak, who’ll likely have to be better than he’s ever been in his career to stop Canada’s four lines of goal scorers.

Health, unfortunately, has not been on their side. Team Europe was dealt a blow with Marian Gaborik’s injury in their overtime win against Sweden. He broke his foot and is out two months, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Mikkel Boedker will slot in on the empty roster spot, but it remains to be seen whether that means he’ll play alongside Kopitar, which Gaborik did.

Reading links

Watch a video of mic-ed up moments of the semifinal.

Who will win the World Cup?

Team Canada11
Team Europe3
I'm not watching the World Cup1