Rivalries are always good. Even great. Rivalry nights are even better. And this time? They definitely didn't disappoint.
Finland vs. Sweden
Finland and Sweden got off to a great start early. Henrik Lundqvist was still feeling the after-effects of the flu and so had to sometimes overcompensate on shots, though he turned away every one put on him this period. Rask also had to come up big a couple times.
Oh yeah, Tuukka Rask was in net.
With Finland having somewhat of a slow start, Sweden attempted everything in their power to take advantage. Tuukka Rask had to be tough...
...And stood tall. His .964 in SV% tonight was well earned and Sweden made him earn it. As both goaltenders got comfortable, both sides took a slower, methodical approach, not getting goals, but definitely testing both goaltenders. But that's not to say they played the stereotypical smooth style euro hockey is sometimes associated with. Oh no, both sides hated each other and got into scrums frequently.
This is where Sweden took off. See, Sweden's major advantage over almost everybody in the tournament is it's suffocating defense, and it means that they spent a very small amount of time in their own end and can spring each other forward for Finland's unproven backcheck to try and handle. Sometimes they did well, othertimes Rask was asked to cover for them:
This unfortunately would not last, as Sweden's slicker, more experienced play ended up getting them the opening tally as Anton Stralman managed to sneak up point blank through the defenders and snap the puck past Rask:
Finland panicked, but in a good way: They turned up the offense, playing to one of their strengths, and often sprung their wunderkind Patrick Laine for fantastic chances, but Lundqvist is still Lundqvist, even at 85%, and Sweden's defense makes up for the rest. Sweden walked out of the period with a 1-0 lead.
The rest of the game was Finland trying to punch their way past Henrik Lundqvist however they could, and coming up unsuccessful. They tried everything. They took penalties, they drew penalties, they tried to get up Sweden's nose about it, they pulled Rask...and to no avail. In fact, pulling Rask while they were scrambling for possession was probably a little too risky for Suomi, and Sweden potted home the winner for a 2-0 result
Finland will be eliminated from semifinal contention, and will play their final game against Russia. Sweden meanwhile holds a commanding lead over Group B and will seek to go undefeated in round robin play today against Team North America.
And now..the game we all wanna hear about.
USA vs. Canada
A lot of people have had their opinions over both teams. Both aren't icing the best roster they could, although one definitely was at a significant disadvantage with a coach known for being both...creative, in roster comp and passionate to the point of insanity. Canada meanwhile just wants to get into the Semis and enjoy their last round robin game. There was a lot on the line here.
For the first 7 or so minutes of this game, Canada played extremely slow and sluggish, and let Team USA basically run all over them. Carey Price was sharp, but even he can't bring back a team that basically allowed USA to do whatever they wanted for several minutes. And it worked out for Team USA as Ryan McDonagh managed to put home a goal point blank as a horde of bodies piled up in front of Price. 1-0
And that...is where EVERYTHING went wrong for USA at once.
Not two minutes later, Marc-Edouard Vlasic banked a shot off the boards to get the puck right to Matt Duchene, who put a pretty backhander right past Jonathan Quick for the tie. And then less than a minute later Corey Perry managed to charge the net as it popped up and in either off of him or off of a defender. Either way, 2-1 Canada. And then a bad turnover got the puck right to an open Matt Duchene for his second of the night.
All of this happened in the span of about...7 minutes of game time. Less than a period, but enough.
And just like that, Team USA was now down 3-1 when they had started the game 1-0.
Did it get worse? Of course it did!
The next period was effectively the opposite of the first period's slow start for Canada, as Team USA's wind was taken out and they spent the entirety of the rest of the game getting shelled or trying to chase a lead that was all but unassailable. Team Canada for their effort, spent most of the period trying to extend their lead in the most bare minimum they could, and eventually got it from Patrice Bergeron going hard to the net:
That's 4-1, by the by. At this point, there wasn't really much that Team USA could do. A large part of that was them being deflated. The other part we'll discuss in the third period.
The Third Period:
The period was effectively Team Canada playing as if they were on an extended power play for most of the period. USA looked gassed, frustrated, and beaten. Everything they hoped they wouldn't be going into this period. They tried, they definitely tried, but it only would come up with a goal by TJ Oshie who managed to shove the puck past a sitting Carey Price to get the game to 4-2. After that, their effort was token, and Canada knew they had them where they wanted them.
Look, I know people have made article after article about how bad Team USA's roster composition was, and Torts definitely didn't help in that regard (if anything, he made it worse). But at this point it cannot be ignored: skill, grit, size, speed, whatever helps a player be good, then they are good using those things. But eventually there comes a point where you have to pick the best available players and utilize them accordingly.
John Tortorella, Dean Lombardi, and Brian Burke failed in that regard.
They just didn't bring enough...well...everything. They didn't bring enough meaningful grit or hitting, they didn't break enough defensive acumen, and they didn't bring enough scoring talent...and when John Tortorella got his mitts on that lineup, which was shaky but serviceable? He mangled it every which way he could to ensure Team USA got run over by a gimmick team, their rival, and if all goes poorly again, the Czech Republic. We'll all enjoy a quick vindictive laugh, sure. But let's not forget that Team USA's elimination was a top-to-bottom failure on the part of people who promised a "culture of winning", but forgot to mention that their coach has gone over a decade without ever being able to make a culture of winning. Eventually, talk and platitudes have to give way to tangible results. And the results say that the lineup as it stood was a mess. And Canada rightly took their spot at the winners table, 4-2 the final score.
Canada will be playing their last Round robin matchup tonight at 8 against Team Europe. Team USA will now have to defeat the Czech Republic on thursday if they want to go home without being shutout from the win column altogether.
Bruins at the WCOH:
Tuukka Rask was asked to keep a strong net, which he ended up doing with a .964 SV%. Unfortunately, this was also in a loss, so I guess we'll just pile on him.
David Backes played more minutes than usual as Team USA tried to get any lines firing in order to crawl back into their game against Canada, but to no avail.
Patrice Bergeron led (and still leads) Canada in shots, had a goal, and played top line minutes in last night's game. He currently has 2 goals in the tournament, and is tied for leading scorer among forwards with Matt Duchene. His linemate Marchand meanwhile, is tied for highest point getter with three points, one goal and two assists.
We're almost out of the round robins. Let's see how far each Bruin gets by the end of this!