The World Cup of Hockey is almost upon us. The short but intense tournament will be held in Toronto and will see the best players in the world compete against each other for the glory of winning the World Cup. Intensity will be at and all-time high, as the teams will be playing with some major pride on the line.
Arguably the strongest squad in the tournament is Team Canada. That comes as no surprise, considering Canada has some of the best players in the world on its current roster. Despite that, it’s going to be a closer tournament than many people are predicting.
Canada is Still Elite
Team Canada is definitely an elite squad at the World Cup. They have multiple NHL captains, not to mention numerous Stanley Cup winners on the current roster. Many on the team also have valuable Olympic experience that includes winning the gold medal. Those names include Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Drew Doughty, Ryan Getzlaf and more. Big game experience is not in short supply with the Canadian squad.
Their roster is stacked with talent top to bottom. Losing elite players such as Tyler Seguin, Duncan Keith, and Jeff Carter hurts any team, but Canada is lucky to have the depth to replace all three without giving up any talent. In this case, the replacements are Jay Bouwmeester, Corey Perry, and Ryan O’Reilly.
As with almost every Canadian hockey team, they are the favourites to win it all. There are a couple of factors that could work for or against Team Canada taking home the top prize, however.
Coming off of an almost year-long layoff due to injury, there were understandably many questions as to the health of Carey Price. The best goaltender in the world when he’s healthy, there may not be a more important player on this roster than the British Columbia native.
That is why both Team Canada and the Montreal Canadiens are hoping for the best in regards to the star netminder, whose recovery continues to progress each passing day.
Carey Price on his recovery: "I said this going to be a progression…it's still early, but it's starting to be better: #WCOH2016
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) September 15, 2016
It all depends on which Price comes out of the gate. In the first exhibition game against the United States, Price looked rusty. That is completely reasonable, considering he was on the shelf for so long. He let in some shaky goals and didn’t inspire a ton of confidence in his first showing back.
The Price that was in net against Russia was a completely different story. The Habs netminder backstopped the Canadian squad to an overtime win that came courtesy of a Getzlaf breakaway. Price made 24 saves for Canada, including an absolute beauty on Alexander Ovechkin in front of the Canadian net. Goaltending is a position that carries a huge amount of responsibility.
If Price comes out firing on all cylinders, Team Canada is in good hands with the former Hart and Vezina trophy winner between the pipes.
A Close Tournament
When you have all the best players in the world facing off against each other, the potential for a blowout noticeably shrinks. These are going to be close games that should be decided by a margin of no more than two goals.
The quality of the hockey being played is better than the Olympics, due solely to all the stars taking part. That means each team is stacked, no matter how you look at it. Team Canada has always been a hockey super power, but in recent years, other countries have made significant strides.
The United States is a powerhouse in Canada’s division, and with the teams splitting their exhibition games one apiece, you can bet that the upcoming clash between them is going to be close and incredibly intense.
You can never count out Sweden, Russia or Finland either. How about Team North America? The young guns are talented and fast and would be more than happy to be the team to upset Canada. Parity in the hockey world has grown exponentially in recent years. Every country now has elite players capable of taking over a game and changing the outcome.
Team Canada will still have a great tournament. They are incredibly talented, and won’t go down without a fight. These games are going to be exciting nailbiters right down to the final whistle. Anything can happen in a short tournament, where every single game carries so much weight.
My best advice? Don’t blink.