Russia vs. Finland
The Russians knew that if they didn't take advantage of Finland's tired and young roster in this game they'd be going home empty handed, and they decided to make the most of themselves early.
As the period went on, it became abundantly clear that Finland's spirit was not in this game. Russia spent the majority of the period trading shots with them as they went about the first period letting Rask and Bobrovsky get comfortable with themselves and with their defense's capabilities. The period would end with no score.
And that's when things started going poorly for the Finns. The scoring was opened by Vlad Tarasenko off of a beautiful pass to get behind Rask. 1-0 Russians
Tarasenko got into a real hurtin' spot. And the defense of Finland? Nowhere to be found. This would become a theme for Rask's home country as they did their best "2015 Bruins in a losing effort" impression.
The next goal would be even more eerie as it resembled goals the Bruins gave up frequently last season. Defense falls on top of him, he has to overcompensate, gets beat, Ivan Telegin scores to put Russia up 2-0.
At this point, Finland's spirit was broken pretty badly. They basically packed it in and let Rask do the rest of the defensework for them. Don't get me wrong, they had plenty of good chances as a team...
..But Bobrovsky was ready for all of them. The Russians had official control of this game by the time Granlund's attempt got blocked away. The Russians walked out of this period with a 2-0 lead.
Playing for pride sometimes means you have to get sloppy in order to get a result. Sometimes that means turnovers you have to defend.
Other times it means a complete breakdown in your defense and your goalie freezes.
This was the dagger goal that sent Finland packing.
In retrospect, it seems as if Finland is currently in transition. They have a bunch of very talented youngsters and still a very talented goalie core that just happens to be getting a little older now. In four years? Finland could be a real contender. Not this year. They have too many marginal players that need to retire and too many players who need some NHL experience first. It's not that they were bad (most of the time), it's that their real stars have yet to blossom into the superstars most analysts say they will be. Russia completely took over the period and left this game going to the Semifinals, leaving Team North America and Finland in their dust.
USA vs. Czech Republic
Team USA was pretty clearly trying to win this game from every step of it, and it was clear they had gotten sick of the constant mockery they'd received. They came out flying. They were shooting every which way, they were definitely keeping the Czechs on their toes and keeping Petr Mrazek busy. Unfortunately for them things would go south as the Czechs finally managed to mount a scoring opportunity. One that they'd get because instead of defending, most of the forwards were kind of listing about and Dustin Byfuglien was too busy shoving David Pastrnak into the net. 1-0 Czechs.
Unsurprisingly, this put the Americans in a rather unhappy mood, and so they brought the thunder on the next few plays, drawing a penalty and getting a goal from their captain: Joe Pavelski.
The period would end with the Americans taking a huge shot and hit lead over the Czechs, but the score still tied at one. There's hope for Team USA, though right?
The Second Period, where everything went to hell for Team USA
I wonder what Peter Laviolette coaching the Americans would've been like...it certainly wouldn't have looked like this.
Early in the period, the Czechs rushed Ben Bishop and managed to squeeze the puck past him as every available stick was poking at a loose puck, but it would put them ahead 2-1.
Justin Abdelkader would respond about 7 minutes later, with a beautiful feed from big Dustin Byfuglien. Tying the game as he flew in from a change. 2-2. Well after that kind of crisp passing and good forechecking, things have to be looking up for the USA now right? I mean, they've beaten them in everything but the sco-
...Fer Chrissakes, USA. So yeah. At the end of this period, Team USA had allowed three goals. Two within the span of seconds.
And if you think Team USA had started to give up on this game, they don't use the ESPN broadcast for highlights in this case not because the call was bad, but that at this point it just flat out didn't exist. They had called up Brett Hull and Chris Chelios and Barry Melrose and whoever else they could, and every single one of them was taking turns just shitting on Team USA's management, coaching staff, and their overall philosophy of hockey. The Czechs were praised, of course, they were ahead. But after awhile it just felt like they had tuned in to a couch with all of these legends and broadcasting personalities MST3k-ing the organizational philosophy of the United States hockey program. It made for an interesting, if sometimes not exactly informative experience.
When was that culture of winning supposed to be taking root, exactly? Because it seems like winter's come early on that particular patch of land. This would end Ben Bishop's night as he was replaced by Cory Schneider.
The third period was Team USA trying desperately to avoid having what happened in the second happen again. They limited the Czechs to about 7 shots, which was improvement over the 14 they allowed, but they were only able to generate one goal, from Ryan McDonagh who scored early.
From then on, it was up to Petr Mrazek to shut the door and keep Team USA out, and Mrazek for all the weird goals he's let up, looked pretty darn good for the Czechs as they outlasted Team USA for a 4-3 result. USA did not go out in a bang, but with a petulant fight started by Ryan Kesler who managed to draw the entire Czech team to bury the US players in a pile by the end. A fitting metaphor for Team USA: Trying to start shit, and being completely shocked when their opponents weren't buying into it.
Most brutally, another gold medalist weighed in on Team USA's performance.
I have great respect for USA hockey but not win a game is very disappointing and makes me wonder where we are heading— MIKE ERUZIONE (@MERUZIONE) September 23, 2016
ouch. That's not a guy you want to disappoint.
Team Finland and Team USA will be sending their players to their respective training camps and prospect camps as both go without wins in the tournament, and are eliminated. Czech Republic is also eliminated, but leaves with a win, a loss, and an overtime loss.
Bruins at the WCOH:
Tuukka Rask was in on a losing effort yesterday. He put up a pretty un-Rask performance, but he had relatively little to play for. Here's hoping he bounces back in training camp.
David Pastrnak was the highlight of many Czech opportunities on goal, though he was never able to get a goal off of this tournament. Witchcraft I say. He leaves the tournament with an assist. He'll likely be heading to camp with the rest of the Bruins prospects. I for one am ready to see him and Cehlarik on the same line!
David Backes sat out the final Team USA game and will likely be heading to camp. He had no points.