Hey there! I hope you've been enjoying the World Cup of Hockey. If you've been too busy to watch any of the games, this recap is for you!
The first week of the WCOH was largely one for setting the stage by having international rivals (and the two gimmick teams) face off in home and home bouts (Team NA and Team Europe played in Canada and Quebec because I guess there isn't a hockey stadium on the borders of any Eurozone nations)
Czech Republic vs. Russia Exhibition Games I and II
Game 1 for the Czechs was a tough effort that largely ended up in a lot of failure to connect on defense as Russia's spinebendingly good offense ran roughshod over them in a bad second period. The Czechs were able to bounce back in the third, and had lots of help in large part due to the Russian defense perhaps being not as good as one might expect, and Sergei Bobrovsky letting in some truly bizarre goals. The final score was 4-3
Game 2 on the other hand, was a much more even-handed matchup that I foolishly slept through because it was at 10:30 on a weekend. From the box scores, it certainly looked like even though Russia was able to break through first early in the third period with a shot from Nikita Kucherov, the Czechs took it to Russia hard and fast and buried them in shots early and kept the pressure on. Both teams had a number of crazy penalties happen at once during this game signifying perhaps, another meeting will be an explosive affair. Both goaltenders put up stellar performances that kept both sides in it all the way into a shootout, where Russia's Varlamov wasn't able to stop Ales Hemsky and Nikita Kucherov just kinda...missed. 2-1 final score
Bruins involved: David Pastrnak has been playing for Team Czech Republic and has garnered decent minutes on Czech Republic's Second line, playing with Milan Michalek and Martin Hanzal. In the first game, he received 11 minutes as the Czechs switched over to playing on the defensive. He received 16 in Czech Republic's second game as the team was more aggressive in getting after Russia's flagging defense. He has yet to score, and what I swore was an assist in game 1 ended up being "coincidental" in getting his linemate the puck, so as of yet no points for Pasta. He has received decent power play time, however, and looked pretty good while he was out there. His next game is against North America on Wednesday.
USA vs. Canada, Exhibition Games I and II
Team USA and Canada traded wins against each other over the weekend. Game one was an ugly affair for Team Canada, as Team USA ran roughshod over them and made Carey Price look every bit as out of practice as our dear friends in Quebec hoped he wouldn't look. The Red and White were able to mount significant attacks and ended up making tons of players who are otherwise much better than Team USA look foolish and ended in a 4-2 win for the Americans.
Unfortunately for the US, their rough and tumble ways would come back to bite them. Game 2 was a really brutal affair in terms of penalties, with every period having a penalty, and the second period especially being a special teams extravaganza. Multiple roughing penalties, multiple hi-sticking and slashing penalties, all in adding up to a game that had almost 52 minutes of penalty time assessed between both teams, and it felt like it. Almost none of the second period was played 5 on 5, and it bit the USA hard as Canada went 3/8 on the power play, winning 5-2.
Bruins Involved: The unfairness of getting Sidney Crosby to center Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand was pretty evident from the get-go. Bergy and Marchand were on-fire from the onset and played like the two premiere talents in the league they are. Then Team Canada decided to twist the knife and have a line we're all too familiar with...
Otherwise, they were great. And will continue to be. Bergeron currently has 1 goal, and Marchand has one assist. They're back in action against Russia on Wednesday on ESPN2.
Brand new Bruin David Backes on the other hand has been playing in the depth for Team USA and taking Penalty kill time. He did fine in these roles, but has yet to score. He plays tomorrow against Finland
Finland vs. Sweden Exhibition Games I and II
Scandinavian neighbors by geography and fierce rivals in international play, it was clear from game one that this would be a great opening contest for the exhibition games and they definitely didn't disappoint in Game 1, which started slow, but got right off to the races as Aleksander Barkov and Former Bruin Loui Eriksson traded goals less than a minute apart. In the third, another former bruin would put the Swedes up, only for Mikael Granlund to tie it back up and bring the game into Overtime. Olli Maata got the OT winner for the Finns for a 3-2 win that looked very solid!
Unfortunately, game 2 was much...less interesting. The Swedes ran Finland the hell over and limited an otherwise perfectly serviceable offense to a mere 14 shots across three periods, and were able to run roughshod over the tired backcheck of the finns, winning 6-3. Sweden will be going after Team Europe on Wednesday, while Finland will lick it's wounds and take on team USA tomorrow on ESPN proper.
Bruins involved: Tuukka Rask only played in Game 2, and paid dearly for the defensive exhaustion. He posted a less than stellar .821 in his only start so far. Don't panic, though! As Henrik Lundqvist, in spite of facing less shots, put up a hideous .786 in a win. International tournaments mean relatively little to a SV% you can actually count on for a preseason or regular season. Rask and Finland will take on Team USA tomorrow at 7, so be ready to watch!
Team North America vs. Team Europe, as a whole
Team Europe is fucked. So very fucked.
They are not screwed, they are not toast, they are fucked. I cannot use any other words to describe how badly fucked Team Europe is. Game one apparently was the nice moment in a 4-0 shutout put on by Team NA as they ran straight over Team Europe twice in a row. Granted, Team Europe finally managed to score in game 2, but did it really matter after that point? The first period of game 2 had North America with 5 goals after 20 minutes.
On the other hand, Team North America, while unquestionably a gimmick beating up on another gimmick, was a revelation. The team's strategy? SPEED. FAST. PUCK POSSESSION. SHOOTING. And that's about it. And they made Team EU's broken, old, and bad defense look like a defeated parent tracking their kids down in a mall. If they play like they did last night, they will go far in this tournament. If nothing else, they will be SO much fun to watch.
Bruins Involved: Zdeno Chara had to drag an otherwise fairly bad defense into a game where he was overmatched, overplayed, and older than just about every player on the team. Sound familiar? He played 19 and 21 minutes in games one and two, proving that not only will the Bruins run Zdeno Chara ragged, whoever's in charge of Team Europe will do so as well. At this point we can only ask that Chara gets out of this tournament without injury. He'll have to play Sweden on Wednesday.
Our game thread for Finland-USA will be up an hour before the game! Be sure to come by and yell about Finland, USA, or any Bruins on either side!