The United States of America fell to Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey Tuesday, Sept. 20. Here’s why the American gunslingers didn’t pull off the most miraculous of upsets.
One: Team Canada is simply better than Team USA. Just look at Canada’s roster. There are potentially 10 future Hall-of-Famers on that list. They are led by the best all-around player in the world — Sidney Crosby. Carey Price is also back with a vengeance, realizing his role as the centerpiece that holds together the Canadian squad. In the 2014-2015 season (he missed most of last season with a MCL sprain) Price boasted a 1.96 goals against average, the best in the league by far. This, coupled with Price’s league-topping save percentage (.933), makes for a truly unbeatable backstop for Team Canada.
Examining this team in comparison to Team USA shows the true reason for the upset. America had Patrick Kane leading the charge with help from Derek Stepan and Joe Pavelski. That’s about it for headline names. Kane, last year’s Art Ross Trophy recipient (most points in a season), was kept to a measly one point in tournament play and a dismal -2 in plus/minus. It is clear the hotshot Americans received a douse of cold water, courtesy of Justin Bieber and his Canadian ensemble.
Two: We were playing in Canada’s back yard. All games were played in the Air Canada Center in Toronto. Hockey is Canada’s sport and the energy in their rink is palpable. The United States coming to Canada’s barn would be like a London football team coming to Gillette to combat the Patriots.The London team against the Patriots would not succeed, much like how Team America crumpled against the puckhead Canadians.
Three: Team North America hurt Team USA more than it did Team Canada. With the 23-and-under team, 13 of USA’s youngsters were forced to play for Team North America. Many of these players were skilled enough to add some much needed depth to Team USA. Team North America only had nine Canadians. This was good and bad news for Team USA. It tells us there is light at the end of this tunnel. Eventually these youngsters will mature into Hall-of-Fame prospects and once again the U.S. will be a World Cup contender.
Four: We just did not play our best hockey. There are those who claim that Team USA was just a bunch of grinders, the gritty backbones that other, more skilled players rely on, but that’s just not true. Kane had the most points in the NHL season, Justin Abdelkader had 42 points, Derek Stepan had 53 and Joe Pavelski was coming off a 78-point season. We have offensive players that can make it happen in enemy territory, but at the World Cup we were shut out by Europe and outscored by a total of 5-11.
The bottom line is our goal scorers were not scoring goals. Jonathan Quick was logging save percentages in the .800s. There were healthy scratches at every game and our players could not find a groove.
Five: We overlooked Team Europe and were under the gun in game two. Nobody expected Team Europe to have any sort of chemistry; to have any sort of chance at winning. They came from seven different countries, encompassed 12 different NHL teams and had no identity — no consistent playing style. Essentially, they are a bunch of veterans giving it one final go on the world stage. Zdeno Chara is washed up, Marian Hossa is injured, Anze Kopitar peaked five years ago, but they steamrolled us in game one of the round-robin tournament, 3-0. This came as a surprise after Europe was slaughtered by Team North America in the pre-tournament, twice.
After a demoralizing loss against what was considered the worst team in the tournament, we moved on to Team Canada, undeniably the best team at the World Cup. We lost 4-2 and were decisively eliminated from the Hockey World Cup.
Team USA would go on to lose to the Czech Republic 4-3 in their third and final game of the preliminary rounds. They would go 0-3 in 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Hopefully this was a wake-up call for the USA Hockey organization and to the players who thought they could breeze through the competition and head straight to the seemingly preordained matchup with Canada in the finals. There is light at the end of this tunnel, but we may have to wait until the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea to see it.