The World Cup of Hockey displayed some exciting preparation games ahead of next week’s start
Anyone who was worried about some great players dropping out of the World Cup of Hockey apparently had no reason to be. If the exhibitions that have occurred prior to the Cup’s scheduled start date (Sept. 17) are any indication, we’re in for some exciting hockey.
Quite a few things happened Thursday and Friday as the exhibitions got into full swing.
Team North America proved it would be a group to fear with an early 4-0 rout of Team Europe. The youngsters, all 23 or younger, put up three goals in a five-minute span to blitz the likes of Roman Josi and Zdeno Chara. Ryan MacKinnon found the back the net twice, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Johnny Gaudreau each did once.
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There was no doubt Team North America would be fun to watch, but it wasn’t a certainty that the group would mesh immediate, or be immune from shrinking under an international spotlight. So far, however, everything is good on those fronts.
Then there was last night’s game
Of course, everyone really wanted to see Team United States against Team Canada in their Friday exhibition. And the result was surprising.
It was widely believed Team USA had screwed up a bit in picking its roster, selecting a lot of suspect character guys (AKA grit guys) and stunting the offense as a result.
That wasn’t seen in a 4-2 exhibition triumph over the stacked Canadians. But what was seen was a lot of fire and anger on both sides.
First, we’ll start with the goal scoring. Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane netted a goal and added an assist in his first action as alternate captain for the team. Captain Joe Pavelski did the same for the Americans.
Kane’s goal came when he followed up on a shot and slapped the puck past Carey Price, who was making his first start in quite some time due to injury.
Of course, the game became about more than goals
As I mentioned above, the U.S. unfortunately picked some unsavory characters to wear its jersey. Two of them made a not-so-great impact on the exhibition against Canada.
T.J. Oshie, who is seen as god’s gift to the human race because he can convert a shootout goal, boarded Logan Couture quite nastily. Couture went head-first into the boards as a result, though he appeared to come out of it OK.
Kesler decided to re-test his “no human can withstand that many hits” theory by boarding the much bigger and, typically, much angrier Shea Weber. While Weber was trying to clear the cobwebs and get the number on the car that hit him, Toews took the chance to tackle Kesler to the ice.
It’s no secret Toews hates Kesler, and Kesler … at least likes antagonizing Toews. It’s unfortunate Toews got involved in that, but he also had an obligation to stand up for his teammate, especially as an alternate captain.
Hockey injuries versus stupid injuries
I put together a post yesterday on how injuries are going to be part of the World Cup of Hockey, and that we as fans need to be willing to accept that for the growth of the game and NHL.
However, when any kind of injury can happen on a play like Oshie or Kesler committed, that’s a totally different scenario. These aren’t hockey plays, as much as some coaches and fans still think they are.
Apparently, Jacob Trouba might’ve gotten a little dirty with Marian Hossa when the latter was injured in an exhibition Thursday. But that doesn’t appear to be as obvious as the stunts Oshie and Kesler pulled. Someone needs to put these guys in check before they hurt star players (notice I don’t say “fellow star players”).
Other than those disappointing actions, however, the World Cup of Hockey is off to a roaring start — and we haven’t even gotten to the game that count yet. Fans will want to catch as much as they can.
On a really positive note to finish this post, here’s something that had Blackhawks fans buzzing Friday.
That is Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson pantsing multi-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson in a corner. That … that is awesome.