The World Cup of Hockey officially returns today, which means its time for some predictions
After some exhibition matchups over the last several days, the real action begins in earnest today for the World Cup of Hockey. Team Europe will take on Team USA in the first tournament game, while Team Czech Republic and Team Canada will square off later in the day.
This tournament is filled with NHL stars, but it’s also filled with questions about who will do what and how the games will play out. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some things that might or might not happen at the Air Canada Centre between today and Sept. 29/Oct. 1.
Either Team Czech Republic or Team Europe doesn’t win a game
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What a tough draw for these two teams. They got paired in Group A with Team Canada and Team USA, which have superior rosters to their Europeans counterparts (even though the Americans could have picked better).
The goaltenders are suspect for the Czechs and Team Europe, while the latter has an age issue (especially at defense) and the Czechs had to rely on non-NHL talent far more than most of its fellow teams.
Team Europe didn’t look good at all during its exhibition schedule. It very well could net the bagel. But Team Czech Republic has its weaknesses as well. Whichever team wins the head-to-head matchup between these two will avoid an 0-fer.
One of Team Finland or Team Sweden won’t come out of Group B
While Group A has two likely favorites, Group B is very open. Team Finland and Team Sweden have tons of talented, underrated players, while Team Russia has some of the NHL’s best forwards. Team North America, meanwhile, showed during the exhibition slate it had the potential to be a juggernaut with a potent combination of speed, youth and talent.
I think Team North America is going to qualify for the semifinal round. Which means we have to choose between Finland, Sweden and Russia for the other Group B semifinal spot. I’m going to eliminate Russia simply because I think their forwards can’t carry them all the way through this rugged group.
So who do you choose between Finland and Sweden? I’ll tentatively say Sweden, but it could go either way.
Team Canada will beat Team USA in the preliminary round
There was some surprise among the hockey community when the Americans knocked down the Canadians — figuratively and literally — in an exhibition game. I’m not sure the Canadians will get fooled again in their next matchup.
On Tuesday, we’ll see the Americans and Canadians square off to determine a likely winner for Group A. There’s no doubt Team Canada has the talent to beat any team, even with the likes of Tyler Seguin and Duncan Keith sidelined.
I think Team Canada beats Team USA in this rematch 4-3, with Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry and Drew Doughty tallying goals. For the Americans, Patrick Kane will score twice, and Max Pacioretty will find the net once.
Corey Crawford will get at least one start in the preliminaries
An interesting decision Team Canada has made for its opening matchup today against Team Czech Republic is healthy scratching goaltender Braden Holtby. That’s defending Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby. So who’s taking his spot on the bench behind incumbent Carey Price?
That’d be Chicago Blackhawks keeper Corey Crawford. This is the same Crow who has been consistently overlooked at the NHL level the past several years. So this is a cool nod for him.
It also leads me to believe Crow will get at least one start in Canada’s three preliminary games. I honestly don’t know that coach Mike Babcock could go wrong giving all three goalies one start in the prelims, so I think Crow will get a look at some point.
The final will feature Canada and North America, with Canada winning
This is a tough call, but I’m going with the stacked team against the young, fearless team in the final. And I think it’s going to be a crazy game.
North America has shown its offense is extremely potent, while we all know what Canada will offer. I see a high-scoring final, should these two teams be involved. Ultimately, however, I think Canada will come out on top of the tournament.
It might take all three games in the best-of-three final format, but the Canadians will reign supreme.