The World Cup of Hockey began this past weekend and saw a couple of blowouts occur on Saturday. Saturday featured the four teams from Group A when Team USA played Europe and the Czech Republic took on Canada.
The Americans came out flat and uninspired while Europe came out ready to take care of business. All pre-tournament, the Americans had talked about not falling behind and they did just that both in the game and the tournament as they fell to the Europeans 3-0.
Marian Gaborik scored the first goal of the game on a 2-1 to get Europe off to a good start. The Americans had a little momentum going in the second period before their assistant captain and best offensive player Patrick Kane made a terrible blunder and turned the puck over. His turnover led to a 2-on-0 breakaway resulting in a 2-0 lead for the Europeans.
The Europeans added one more against the run of play and got outstanding goaltending from Jaroslav Halak and left the first game of the tournament with a resounding victory over the Americans.
The other game was a dominating performance from start to finish from the Canadians. If a team is going to want to beat Canada this tournament, they will have to figure out how to stop Sidney Crosby’s line. Playing alongside Boston Bruins teammates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, that line seems to have found instant chemistry.
The power play looked dynamic, the Canadians got scoring from their defense, and Carey Price looked like the MVP goalie from two years ago in net. The end result was a 6-0 thrashing over Team Czech Republic.
Team Europe will play the Czechs on Monday, while Canada and the United States will play on Tuesday night.
One Thing We Learned: Management and head coach John Torterella have decided that the Americans are going to play their way and no other way. They built a team designed to thrive on the NHL size rink by being the most physical and imposing team in the tournament. They then began the tournament by sitting out Dustin Byfuglien who maybe best represents exactly how management wants the Americans to play. It was a head-scratching move, and now the Americans will need help to advance to the next stage of the tournament.
One Thing for the Next Game: Their next game is against Canada and over and over again it has been stated that this team was built to beat Canada. Well now is the time to do it because if they lose there are going to be serious questions about this team and the construction of it. All the talk is about Patrick Kane, but Joe Pavelski must play a great game for Team USA to win. Whichever team can be more physical, while remaining disciplined may have the upper hand.
One Thing We Learned: Canada really is the favorite. A couple goals from their first line combined with a power play that is beyond lethal and a defense that looks like it will not be giving up any goals makes for a scary combination for Team Canada.
One Thing for the Next Game: It will be fascinating to see this team play a higher caliber team in Team USA. The Czech’s are not a top tier team at this tournament, so it will be interesting to see how this team responds to being pushed like they supposedly will be against the Americans. Watch for the Toews-Couture line to dominate. If they do so, Canada will be in great shape.
One Thing We Learned: Underdogs? Not so much. Led by the creativeness of head coach Ralph Kreuger, this European team has come together with the identity of playing solid and disciplined team hockey. The Americans looked rattled at portions of the game, which is exactly the opposite of the calmness that was on full display by the Europeans. Jaroslav Halak has the talent to carry this team to the next level and he did so Saturday afternoon.
One Thing for the Next Game: Jaroslav Halak made a couple phenomenal saves in the first game. Before the game, however, Halak had not played a competitive game since May. It will be important for Halak to recover and continue to play at a high level because if he does so this Europe team may very well be headed to the semifinals.
Team Czech Republic:
One Thing We Learned: Underdogs? Yes, very much so. Without David Krejci and Tomas Hertl, Jakub Voracek is their best forward and it will be difficult for him to create enough offense for this team to win. They were manhandled by Canada, and included in that performance was a solid performance by goaltender Michael Neuvirth, who made 44 saves in the loss.
One Thing for the Next Game: The next game for the Czech is against Europe and that is most likely their best chance to win a game this tournament. Look for a proud performance from the Czechs who certainly will not want to lose every game in this tournament.