The first weekend of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is in the books, and things have already gotten interesting
Of the eight teams competing for the World Cup, each played in one game on either Saturday or Sunday this past weekend. The tournament is officially underway, and while some teams have performed as expected, other teams have proven to be a bit of a surprise.
The fun part about this is that almost every team (the exception being Team North America) has at least one Chicago Blackhawk competing for their country. Below are some observations from each game, as well as how the Blackhawk players are faring.
Team USA vs. Team Europe
From an American standpoint, there couldn’t be a more appropriate way the kick off the tournament. Let’s watch the bruising American team kick the collective butt of those old and washed up Europeans. After all, Team Europe is the oldest team in the tournament.
But with age comes experience, and Team Europe played a smarter and more disciplined game. They were patient, they controlled the pace and they capitalized on the mistakes of the United States.
In the meantime, Team USA seemed jittery and undisciplined. Its players kept turning over the puck, and this led to numerous odd man rushes for Team Europe.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ very own Patrick Kane is arguably the biggest star on the team, and with this comes some pressure. Well, in this game he didn’t handle the pressure too well. Early in the second period, Kane was trying to do too much, and he lost the puck. This led to a 2-on-0 breakaway, and Team Europe toyed with goalie Jonathan Quick as they scored to make it 2-0 Europe.
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U.S. coach John Tortorella tried to give Kaner a chance to redeem himself; he ended up leading all forwards with 18:48 minutes of ice time.
But this backfired. I kept seeing Kane being forced to defend instead of having time with the puck in his own zone.
Now, this appeared to be a combination of a few things. It involved a poor performance by the actual defense, smart play by Team Europe and not the best matchup decisions by Torts.
Regardless, having your best offensive player defending is not an optimal situation for Team USA. Needless to say, the Americans were swept by Team Europe by a final score of 3-0.
Moving on to the Europeans, I already mentioned that they are the oldest team in the tournament. Along with seven other European nationalities, there are six Slovaks on the team. One of them is Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks.
It’s sad that Slovakia wasn’t able to put together its own team. In an article by Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus, Hossa discusses how his country is having a hard time producing young hockey talent like it used to.
In this World Cup, Hossa, Anze Kopitar and Tomas Tatar comprise a strong second line for Team Europe. Hossa and Tatar are from Slovakia, and Kopitar hails from the neighbor country of Slovenia. Although this line didn’t generate any points Saturday, it was a threat on the ice and was responsible defensively. Kopitar was named the third star of the game.