The uninspired play of Team USA presents a challenge for new captain Joe Pavelski, but his time leading the San Jose Sharks may have prepared…
Team USA represented the nation in a shameful fashion to open the 2016 World Cup of Hockey Saturday, Sept. 17. The 3-0 loss to a team that struggled in pre-tournament games pushes the gold medal-contending Americans to the brink of elimination.
Joe Pavelski was given the “C” for the World Cup of Hockey. Coming out flat is never a good look for leadership.
Losing to an underdog like Team Europe is an even worse look. Yet the worst thing of all was that Team USA was downright lackadaisical, giving up four odd-man rushes by the game’s midpoint.
America was hoping for the kind of effort it got in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. At least the 2014 Sochi performance was good before the medal rounds. Instead, this game looked like a 2006 Turin-level effort.
Team USA even had two days off between its last pre-tournament game and Saturday. Coach John Tortorella also has to be questioned about not playing Dustin Byfuglien or Kyle Palmieri unless he is going to confess to any injuries they have. However, a good effort by those that did dress should still have beaten Team Europe.
The good news is that Pavelski has some experience leading a team that comes out lackadaisical against inferior competition. This has been a long-time problem for the Sharks that still lingered past the midpoint of the 2015-16 NHL season.
The bad news is that the World Cup of Hockey is so short that crawling out of this hole will be tough. Team USA has to at least take Team Canada to overtime Tuesday (game starts at 5:00 p.m. PDT) or have Team Czech Republic—clearly the worst team in the tournament—beat Team Europe in regulation. Only winning out guarantees a berth.
Team Canada will be coming off a 6-0 thrashing of Team Czech Republic. A regulation win will guarantee the Canadians a spot in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey semifinal.
Team Canada weathered its own slow start better and emerged much more quickly. San Jose’s Canadian contingent had its expected impact with Brent Burns registering an assist on the second goal and Joe Thornton netting the fourth.
The heavily-favoured (as they spell it) Canadians split the two pre-tournament games against the rival Americans. Both teams won their other game.
At least Team USA will know where it stands when it faces off against Team Canada. Team Europe plays Team Czech Republic Monday, Sept. 19 at noon PDT—also with the ability to clinch a semifinals berth with a regulation win.
Jonathan Quick kept Team USA in Saturday’s contest for nearly two periods with brilliant goaltending. One of the goals he allowed came against two opponents and without a defender even in the zone.
Team USA eventually played more responsibly, even pushing back to score an apparent goal on the power play. However, James Van Reimsdyk was ruled to have deliberately directed the puck on net with his chest.
The goal was thus disallowed. Team Europe scored the final goal a few minutes later to salt the game away.
The three-goal lead that established allowed the slower European skaters to play simply to limit American chances. That was foolproof since Jaroslav Halak was up to every (legal) shot he faced—35 in all. The outcome probably determined the group’s semifinal spot outside of Canada.