4 Thoughts: Canada Holds Out Over Late U.S. Push

Despite a three-goal run in the second period and an intense late-game push, the United States fell 4-3 to Canada in Saturday’s semifinal contest at the IIHF World Championship.

The U.S. rallied from down 2-0, putting up three straight markers from Auston Matthews, David Warsofsky and Tyler Motte. But Canada bounced back with goals from Derick Brassard and Ryan Ellis to take the win.

Now Canada moves on to face the undefeated Finnish squad for gold. After going five tournaments without a medal of any kind, Canada will push for back-to-back victories, the first since Russia did it in 2008 and 2009.

Meanwhile, Russia awaits the U.S. for the right to not go home empty-handed.

1. Was This Inevitable?

Of course not, but it feels that way. The U.S. boasts the youngest roster in the tournament, with an average age just over 23. Canada has an all-NHL lineup with best-on-best caliber players. There isn’t a single player on the U.S. that will be on their World Cup roster. For the U.S. a loss to Germany during the preliminary round, followed by an overtime loss to Slovakia, made it look unlikely that they’d be competing for hardware of any kind.

It’s a stark contrast between the two national squads, and a U.S. win would have been seen as a serious upset.

Ultimately, no one accepts a loss with a smile, but it was, insofar as this exists, a good loss for the U.S. They were outmatched and they played hard, holding a lead for a long stretch and they gave Canada a scare late with a dominant third period, in which they outshot their northern neighbors 11-4.

2. A Coming Classic

The first match between Canada and Finland wasn’t the punch drunk heavyweight championship many hoped, but Canada isn’t likely to go down quite as easy in a second match.

The undefeated Finns versus the defending champions could be a great game. Mikko Koskinen was great in net for Finland on Saturday, and there are plenty of Finns that are exciting for a fan of any team to watch. Particularly youngsters Sebastian Aho and Patrik Laine, who played a major role in all three goals Saturday.

It has the potential to be a gold medal contest worth remembering.

RELATED: 4 Thoughts: Finland Bests Russia to Head to Gold Medal Game

3. Auston Matthews, Still No. 1

There was a sense from many that Worlds would be the final verdict on whether Laine’s late-season surge would allow him to unseat Matthews as the number one overall pick in the 2016 draft. It was a little ridiculous to boil down a huge amount of scouting and years of play to a single seven-game tournament, but, in the end, little has changed.

Laine has been great, MVP worthy. But Matthews has been very good too, being named one of his team’s three best players Saturday.

The biggest takeaway may not be that Laine has put up the second most points by an 18-year-old at Worlds in history — though that’s hugely impressive — but that Matthews defensive skill translates to facing NHL-quality competition.

He’s been fantastic at both ends of the ice and there’s no way that Toronto is prepping jerseys with anything other than “Matthews” on the back.

http://gty.im/533211590

4. Brad Marchand Should Be on the World Cup Roster

It’s not that simple, but there was a case for it before. After a 37-goal season, his case grew. Now, he’s making the most of his last chance to impress Hockey Canada brass before they wound out their World Cup roster.

It’s not just the four goals and six points in nine games that have impressed, but what he’s brought all over the ice. He’s been intense, able to play key situations, showed great situational awareness and has had flashes of the offensive prowess he showed during the regular season with the Bruins.

Canada tends to be a finesse team, and that shouldn’t be different at this year’s World Cup with Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Steven Stamkos among the names already announced. Marchand would be a counterpoint and a Swiss army knife that could be deployed in many ways without sacrificing offense.

He’s made the case, being able to do just about anything Team Canada needs him to here. He was even named one of the team’s three best players of the tournament.

It’ll be tough for it to actually happen though, with names like Logan Couture, Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall, Rick Nash, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johanson, Ryan O’Reilly and Corey Perry among the players not named to the team so far.

Canada will face Finland at 1:45pm ET for the 2016 World Championship gold medal.

YouTube player