Team USA could not be in a worse spot going into their game against Team Canada on Tuesday night. After losing their first game of the tournament to Team Europe, coupled with Team Canada’s throttling of Team Czech Republic, Team USA’s chances at advancing took a major hit, after just one game.
Team Europe then decided to be the thorn in Team USA’s side once again when they upset yet another team by beating Team Czech Republic 3-2 on Monday.
Going into the game between Team USA and Team Canada, Team Europe sits atop the group at 2-0-0, Canada following them at 1-0-0 followed by the Czech Republic at 0-1-1 and USA sitting in the cellar at 0-1-0.
The way round-robin play has gone thus far has made this a must-win game for Team USA, plain and simple. If Team USA wants any shot at advancing out of the round-robin, they need to beat their rivals from the north.
History Isn’t on Team USA’s Side
Team USA and Team Canada have plenty of history, there’s no questioning that. But Team Canada has come out on the winning side in the majority of these teams’ recent meetings. Team Canada played grim reaper against Team USA in the last two Olympics, beating the Americans in the gold-medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and also keeping the United States from the gold medal game in 2014 with a win in their semifinal matchup.
Looking at the team’s most recent play, their two pre-tournament games, the U.S. hasn’t fared much better. The Americans were able to steal a game from the Canadians, a 4-2 win to open the pre-tournament games, but overall, the States looked a step behind Canada and were outscored by a combined score of 7-6 in the two games.
The Americans will have to get on the right side of history if they want the slightest chance at advancing to the next round.
Mixing up the States’ Lines
The makeup of Team USA has been questioned since the rosters for the best-on-best tournament were announced.
Once the tournament started, the questions continued to mount as John Tortorella left Dustin Byfuglien and Kyle Palmieri out of the lineup against Team Europe to start round-robin play.
As Team USA was shut out 3-0 by Team Europe, Byfuglien, their top offensive-defenseman, and Palmieri, a 30-goal scorer for the New Jersey Devils last season, sat and watched their team’s chances at winning the tournament take a huge blow.
The biggest piece, both physically and figuratively, for Team USA is Byfuglien.
Byfuglien should slide right into the line up in any role. He has played both forward and defense during this tournament for Team USA already, providing strong versatility in the lineup. The six-foot-five American has the physicality, which Team USA was built around, and brings the possibility of an offensive spark to the ice at the same time for Team USA.
If Byfuglien’s physical style of play can disrupt the well-oiled machine that is Team Canada, Team USA will already be in a better position. If the 265-pounder can figure in the State’s offensive attack as well, Team USA might be able to stay alive in the standings.
Defense Wins Championships
It’s one of the most popular sayings in sports. A team can’t win if they can’t score. Looking at the matchup between the United States and Canada, you can’t go into the game thinking the States will shut out the Canadians. Yes, it could happen, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. While it’s unlikely to happen, the U.S. can learn from some things that went wrong against Team Europe.
To start off, don’t give up a 2-on-0 break to the opposing team .
Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews and Joe Thornton all play up front for the Canadians with more than capable offensive threats like Drew Doughty and Brent Burns patrolling the blue line. Any type of gift-wrapped opportunity like the play above is like tossing a juicy steak to a starved dog.
Team USA played well against Team Europe, allowing only 17 shots-on-net. However, Team Europe was able to capitalize on a Patrick Kane turnover, which turned into the 2-on-0 from above. A redirection off to the side of goalie Jonathan Quick, and Marian Gaborik finishing a 2-on-1 break. All while Jaroslav Halak pitched a 35-save shutout for Team Europe.
Team USA will need some better puck luck on top of top-notch team defense if they want a shot at beating the Canadians and keeping their hopes of a World Cup of Hockey championship alive.
The Hockey Writers coverage of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 is being brought to you by PrimeSport, the official Fan Travel & Hospitality Package Partner of the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.