The United States fell to Team Europe while Canada made it look easy against the Czech Republic as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey kicked off on Saturday in Toronto.
It was all Group A hitting the Air Canada Centre Ice, with both games yielding different results for two of the tournament favourites, putting the NHL’s ideal Canada vs USA final in Jeopardy already.
Canada vs Czech Republic
Captain Sidney Crosby was in fine form while Carey Price was perfect in his first meaningful game returning from injury, as Canada beat the Czech Republic 6-0 on Saturday Night.
A devastatingly-balanced attack from Canada was lead by the top line of Crosby, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, who had a goal each. Joe Thornton, assisted by his beard, put Canada ahead 4-o not even half way through the second period. Jonathan Toews and Alex Pietrangelo rounded out the scoring, notching a power-play goal each.
Crosby added two assists for a casual three-point night in only 12 minutes of ice time, while Price made 27 saves for the shut out in his first competitive game since sustaining a knee-injury last November.
Not only did two of Canada’s key stars pick up where they left off, but so did Team Canada as a whole. The sufficating defensive style characterized by short shifts and hard back-checking that was so prominent in the 2014 Sochi Olympics was almost identical to that which Canada displayed on Saturday.
Team Canada Goaltender Carey Price after the game,
“Hockey Canada, we play very good defensive hockey. We make it really difficult to score goals. Look at the roster and how many championship players are on this team, and there’s a reason why they’re champions. They play the game the right way, they’re on the right side of the puck at the right time.”
It appears, at least early on, that Mike Babcock has again gotten the world’s top players to buy in very quickly to his philosophy of short shifts and role-defined distribution of ice time. Sidney Crosby, who had three points and was visibly dominant, averaged just over 12-minutes spanning 27 shifts -Averaging around :26 seconds per shift.
Canada scratches – Claude Giroux (RW), Jake Muzzin (D) and Braden Holtby (G). Czech Republic scratches – left wing Michal Birner (LW), Tomas Kundratek (D) and Ondrej Pavelec (G).
USA vs. Team Europe
After leaving several scoring forwards off the roster, including high-flying goal machine Phil Kessel, the United States was unable to find the back of the net even once in their WCH opener, losing 3-0 to Team Europe.
Marian Gaborik (Slo), Leon Draisaitl (Ger) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Fra) found the back of the net for Europe while supported by a stellar 35-save performance from Jaroslav Halak (Slo).
Team USA Head Coach John Tortorella after the game,
“We tried to stay together even through a little bit of adversity there. But we just couldn’t create better scoring chances. I thought for really a good part of the game we had the puck quite a bit, but we just couldn’t develop those good scoring chances.”
Opposite results on second period odd-man-rushes were likely the turning points of the game. Patrick Kane’s turnover just under five-minutes in to the second period, leading to a 2-on-0
finished off by Draisaitl, put Europe ahead 2-0. Half way through the frame, Jaroslav Halak was able to slide across and break up a 2-on-1 pass from Patrick Kane targeted for Ryan Kesler.
Contrasting Tortorella’s eye test, Team Europe dominated with puck possession. The puck was in the Team USA zone for 49% of the game compared to only 33% played behind Europe’s blue line – Although USA did out shoot Europe 35-17 overall.
Each team was 0-for-4 on the power play. … Europe blocked 18 shots. … USA out hit Europe 25-19. … Scratches for USA – Dustin Byfuglien (D), Kyle Palmieri (RW) and Cory Schneider (G). … Scratches for Europe – Mikkel Boedker (RW) and Philipp Grubauer (G).
Up Next: Europe faces the Czech Republic at 3pm ET. on Monday, While the USA will have to wait until Tuesday when they face Team Canada at 8pm ET.
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Follow author: @KyleCants