Hours before being eliminated from the World Cup at the hands of their bitter rivals, Team USA forward T.J. Oshie told reporters, “If it comes down to 100 per cent skill, I think they win; 100 per cent grit, I think we win.”
While Canada entered the tournament as the favorite thanks to their stacked roster of elite NHLers, the USA entered as underdogs with a roster designed to defeat Canada. Highly skilled forwards like Phil Kessel, Tyler Johnson, and Kyle Okposo were left at home; so were elite offensive defensemen like Keith Yandle, Justin Faulk, and Kevin Shattenkirk. In their places went Justin Abdelkader, Brandon Dubinsky, David Backes, Jack Johnson, and Erik Johnson. Two of those were healthy scratched last night, while the other three combined for six hits, 4 PIM, and a -3 rating.
According to Sportsnet’s Luke Fox, a reporter asked coach John Tortorella after the game if he would “change the makeup” of the team in hindsight, and he received a short answer.
NHL MVP and American assistant captain Patrick Kane told reporters “I’ll never say a bad thing about [Tortorella]. He’s just a great coach, and we didn’t show up for him.”
Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshnyski was a little harsher, calling the game “60 minutes of apathetic Americans flinging shots and Canadians poking a dead carcass with a stick.”
It’s time for USA Hockey to adapt to the new style of international game. They need look no further than the reason behind Team North America’s success in this tournament: fast and skilled. While the Americans didn’t have the choice of taking Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Dylan Larkin, or Brandon Saad, one has to wonder how many of those would have made the cut of a team based on grinding and physical play. That needs to change, if the Americans want to have a chance to beat the Canadians at future tournaments.
This edition of Team USA was designed to beat Canada; it turns out the only team they’ve been able to beat is themselves.
- The clinching scenarios for tonight’s games are as follows: North America can clinch a berth in the semi-finals with a regulation win over Sweden, or be eliminated if they lose by five goals or more. Finland will be eliminated if North America gets at least one point. Sweden can clinch Group B if they earn at least one point versus the North Americans tonight. Meanwhile in Group A, with the eliminated Americans and Czechs set to play a meaningless game, the winner of Canada and Europe will clinch the Group.
- Incredible stat from Tom Gulitti’s game recap over at the World Cup website: Ryan McDonagh’s goal in the first period ended Carey Price’s international shutout streak at 228.41. That dates back to Canada’s semi-final win over Latvia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Price proceeded to shutout the Americans in the semi-finals, Sweden in the finals, and the Czechs in the World Cup opener.