Team USA entered this contest with their backs against the wall, but when all was said and done Team Canada would essentially eliminate the Americans from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
The 2016 World Cup of Hockey has kicked into high gear. Some teams have already secured themselves a spot in the next round of competition. On the other side of the ice, there are some teams who are fighting for their lives and scratching and clawing to secure their place in history.
Unfortunately, tonight’s encounter has one on each side. If Team Canada emerges victoriously from tonight’s encounter with Team USA, they will clinch themselves a spot in the next round. At the same time, a loss for Team USA means an early exit from the competition and an early and disappointing plane ride home.
When the puck dropped and tonight’s must-win encounter kicked off, Team USA looked as if they were well on the road to redemption. They controlled much of the play and seemed rather aggressive with the puck.
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Just over four minutes into the first period, New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh would sink the puck past Carey Price to give Team USA the early lead. Unfortunately, things would escalate very quickly.
Winnipeg Jets alternate captain Dustin Byfuglien completely blows his coverage in front of the net leaving the door open for Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene to beat Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick to tie things up for Team Canada.
Eventually, you reach the point where you think things couldn’t possibly get any worse for Team USA, well…they do. Jonathan Quick has a serious miscue and essentially passes the puck to Corey Perry to give Team Canada a 2-1 lead over the crumbling Team USA.
All of a sudden, the momentum that was once filling the sails of Team USA and their fans dissipated into oblivion. If Team USA had any chance of coming out of this game with the victory, they were going to have to dig their skates in deep and changes things immediately.
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen during the first period. Just past the halfway point in the first period, Matt Duchene would charge the net once again, with the assistance of San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, and sink the puck past Quick to give Team Canada a 3-1 first period lead over Team USA.
The current status of the game was rather perplexing for Team USA fans. Team USA had a faceoff percentage of 69 percent, the Americans led the Canadians in hits 22-6, 9-5 in blocked shots, and somehow the Canadians continued to dominate on the scoreboard.
There are two things we can see that have contributed to this current state of events. First and foremost, Jonathan Quick has not been holding things down between the pipes for Team USA. Of course, the people over at ESPN would disagree with you as they refer to him as the best goalie in the league, but Quick certainly isn’t showing it on the ice.
At the same time, Team USA’s offense has done little to really challenge Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in Team Canada’s net, despite having a chance with the man advantage.
We may never know what Team USA Head Coach John Tortorella said to the team in the locker room during the intermission, but whatever it is, we’re sure we’re glad we weren’t in the room at the time. There is no realm in which Torts was happy walking into that locker room.
Why should he be? His team has played like they have their skates glued to the ice. This is not the way a team should play when their back is against the wall. If Team USA wants to avoid an early exit, they are going to have to step it up exponentially in the second period.
Unfortunately, Team USA didn’t appear to be any more energized at the onset of the second period than they did after the first five minutes of the first period. As we mentioned before, if Team USA has any hopes of continuing on in the international tournament, they have to play with more aggression.
At 14:54 in the second period, Team USA would give Team Canada their second Power Play of the night as Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson would be sent to the box for two minutes for Delay of Game after sending the puck flying over the glass.
Thankfully for the Americans, Team Canada was not able to make the most of the opportunity in front of them. At this point, we’ll take this as a positive for Team USA.
Both Team Canada and Team USA had a number of valid scoring shots throughout the remainder of the second period, but neither team was able to put the puck in the back of the net. Now, Team USA finds themselves with a mere 20 minutes to get out from under. Otherwise, they are headed home in defeat.
On a brighter note, Tampa Bay Lightning fans have something to be happy about. In the second period, just before the halfway point, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos had an amazing opportunity to put the puck past Jonathan Quick. Thankfully for Team USA, Quick was able to keep the puck out of the net.
There were still seven minutes left in the game when the Canadian crowd started sticking it to Team USA, attempting to sing them off the ice in defeat. Unbeknownst to popular belief, Team USA wasn’t done quite yet. With the assistance of Team Canada’s Joe Thornton, Team USA would put the puck past Price and into the back of the net to make this a two-goal game.
With two minutes left in the game, Team USA Head Coach John Tortorella would pull Quick from between the pipes for the extra attacker. As most hockey fans know, this is either going to pay dividends or cost the team everything. It’s a gamble, but one Team USA had to take.
While the hedged bet didn’t come back to bite them in the behind, it didn’t help them either. When the final buzzer sounded, Team Canada would defeat Team USA 4-2, eliminating Team USA from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Coming into this game, we had very high hopes for Team USA. Judging by not only their performance during the exhibition games, but the sheer amount of talent on the team, that fans would’ve been in for a really interesting game. Unfortunately, this has simply not come to pass.
Jonathan Quick has been weak at best. While there were moments when the defense could be blamed for a goal, there were more than a few goals that could’ve been easily prevented. This leads many Tampa Bay Lightning fans to question why Bolts netminder Ben Bishop wouldn’t be utilized at any point.
Each and every season, Ben Bishop continues to break franchise records for the Tampa Bay Lightning and continually sets the bar higher for himself and those who would follow him. Why would you let a netminder like this sit the bench when every hope of victory is evaporating right in front of their faces?
At the same time, Team USA have some of the best goal scorers in the league, hello…paging Patrick Kane, who were essentially rendered scoreless when it mattered the most. Does this mean the Canadian defense is that good, or were players like Kane caught sleeping on the job?
Unfortunately, we could go on about this for days about who’s responsible for this and who’s responsible for that. No matter what we have to say, or where the actual blame lies, the fact of the matter is Team USA simply couldn’t get the job done. Team Canada is headed to the semi-final round, and Team USA and Team Czech Republic have been eliminated from contention.
The bad news is, Team USA doesn’t have the opportunity to head home to begin healing their wounds. Team USA will have to remain in Toronto until Thursday when they will take on Team Czech Republic in the consolation match.
We’re sure there will be plenty of discussions within USA Hockey to attempt to determine what went wrong. The one thing we know for sure…whether it’s the 2018 Winter Olympics or the 2020 World Cup of Hockey, there are going to be changes moving forward.
While this is definitely disheartening for Team USA fans, there is still plenty for Tampa Bay Lightning fans to cheer about. First of all, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos moves onto the semi-finals with Team Canada after their win tonight. Secondly, Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman have been heating up the ice for Team Sweden, who is set to take on Team North America tomorrow.
Speaking of Team North America, this means we’ll get to see a little more of Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and Head Coach Jon Cooper. Also, we have Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Andrei Vasilevskiy representing the Lightning on Team Russia.
Last, but certainly not least, Lightning fans have Valtteri Filppula, who is serving as Alternate Captain for Team Finland.
Team USA and Team Czech Republic may be headed home, but there is still plenty of exciting hockey left to play. Which team do you think has the best chance of coming home with the Gold at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey? Right now, our money is on Team Sweden. For now, we’ll have to wait and see how things play out.