By Matt Garcia
With the conclusion of the 2016 world cup pre-tournament play, it’s time we take a look back at how these teams have done against their opponents, and what we can expect when the puck drops on the 17th for preliminary play, if the pre-tournament games are how we can expect the preliminary games to start than we are in for a real treat as the pre-tournament games brought us everything a hockey fan loves. Goal scoring, physicality, and some of the rough stuff.
North America: Team North America recently finished up their final pre-tournament game with a 3-2 loss to the Czech Republic giving them a 2-1-0 overall record in their pre-tournament play. However, we got to see some stellar play from this young team that looks like it will be backed by Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray throughout tournament play as he pitched a 4-0 shutout in his first game against Europe stopping all 23 shots that he faced and only allowing one goal in the 3-2 loss before Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck took over the reigns in the 3rd period.
Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson did make an appearance in their 2nd game against Europe in which he turned away 29-33 shots he faced so you could very well see him in the rotation as the backup to Murray. One thing to keep an eye out for with this North America team is their very active and mobile defense as they will be quick to jump in on plays in the offensive zone, we saw it a little bit in the 2nd game as Aaron Ekblad posted two goals against Europe. This is a team that is stacked with a lot of young talent who looks to make a big splash on the 18th when they open up tournament play versus Finland.
USA: Team USA closed their pre-tournament play on Tuesday, September 13th with a 3-2 win over Finland to give them a 2-1-0 record in the pre-tournament series, and it is safe to say that it looks like Team USA will be looking at goaltender Jonathan Quick as their number one goalie throughout the tournament as he was sensational in the opening game against Canada turning away 32-33 shots he faced through two periods before Ben Bishop took over in the 3rd, and stopping 30-32 shots in the win against Finland. In the opening two games against Canada it was clear that these two teams did not care for one another, in the first outing, we saw USA forward Ryan Kesler get ejected for a boarding call against Canada defenseman Shea Weber. That intensity and hate carried over into Game 2 as we first watched.
That intensity and hate carried over into Game 2 as we first watched John Tavares lay into Kesler along the corner boards and later saw Joe Thornton take a run at Kesler. The two teams would split their meetings first USA with a 4-2 win, then Canada countered with a 5-2 victory. Make sure to mark your calendars for the 20th as USA will face Canada in tournament play, and that promises to be a great one! USA will look towards some of their star talents such as Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, and T.J. Oshie to help carry them through the tournament as well as some solid defensive play. That will be a major key if the USA hopes to go deep in this tournament.
Canada: In the final tune-up game Team Canada topped Team Russia with a final score of 3-2 in overtime with the game winner being scored by Ryan Getzlaf, giving Canada a 2-1-0 record in their pre-tournament play. Canada opened up play against USA in a 4-2 loss in which we saw the return of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. Price turned away 21-24 shots that he faced in the loss. In the 2nd game that these two teams played against one another, we saw a little bit of rotation in the lineup as Canada dressed forward Corey Perry, goaltender Corey Crawford, and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Having Perry on the ice instantly paid off as he factored in on two of Canada’s goals, and now with the news that Canada will be without forward Tyler Seguin, Perry will most likely draw into the lineup. Those of you that are familiar with Perry you will know that this will not be a bad thing for Canada as he brings some nastiness to the table as well as the ability to put the puck in the net, and is not afraid to be in the dirty areas on the ice.
At this point in time it is hard to gauge who will be in net for Canada as all goalies made a case for themselves as Braden Holtby saw some playing time in the second game against Team USA stopping 11-13 shots before Crawford would come in to finish the 2nd half of the game stopping all 10 shots that he had faced. But, it looks like they will ride into tournament play with Price as the starter. But, no doubt that they’ll have every opportunity to win no matter who they choose to start in net whether it be Price, Crawford, or Vezina winner Braden Holtby.
For all the schedule information, dates, and TV listings regarding the World Cup of Hockey please visit www.wch2016.com/scores-schedule.
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