World Cup of Hockey Day 2: These kids are pretty good
Heading into the tournament, the Under 23 North American World Cup of Hockey team garnered plenty of hype. Whether it was opposing players, coaches or media, the eyes were centered on what this team could potentially accomplish during the two-week tournament.
So far, they are living up to that hype.
From the scoresheet to the on-ice logistics, team North America dominated Finland in its preliminary round opener on Sunday as they cruised to a 4-1 victory. Former BU Terrier Jack Eichel opened the scoring with a power play goal at 5:03 in the first, while ex-BC Eagle Johnny Gaudreau scored the first of three-second period goals for the under-23 squad just 9:10 apart. Jonathan Drouin and Nathan McKinnon rounded out the scoring in the middle stanza.
For all their scoring, it was their play away from the puck that impressed head coach Todd McLellan. From their quick transitions from defense to offense to their neutral zone play, the North American’s had a well-rounded performance against the Finns.
“I’m happy that you noticed the play away from the puck because that’s what impressed me the most with our group tonight was — teams talk about or people talk about our speed, and a lot of times the focus is offensively and attacking the zone,” McLellan told the press afterward. “I was proud of our group today because I thought we used that speed to catch them from behind, catch them by the red line, have a good gap, have the ability to strip pucks and go the other way. We’ve been stressing lately that we can use our speed in that area, as well, and we saw it paid off tonight.”
Pekka Rinne got the nod for the first game ahead of Bruins’ starter Tuukka Rask and essentially stood on his head. The Preds netminder made 39 saves in the Finns’ losing effort.
While acknowledging his performance, Finland coach Lauri Marjamaki wouldn’t endorse Rinne to start in Finland’s next game against Sweeden on Tuesday, at least in the immediate term.
“I don’t know,” Marjamaki said in his postgame press conference. “I think that Pekka was our best player today, and I have to think about it, what we do on Tuesday.”
Sweeden holds off Russia
The last thing that Sweeden needed was for Henrik Lundqvist to miss Sunday’s game due to illness, or so that was the thought going into the Swede’s opener against Russia.
Enter Jacob Markstrom. The Canucks goalie, who appeared in a career-high 33 games for Vancouver last year, made 27 stops against the high-octane Russians, including a clutch pad save on Alex Ovechkin near the home stretch of the third period, to spark the Swede’s to a 2-1 win.
Not bad for a guy who last played on the international stage at the 2013 World Championships.
“I think obviously Markstrom is a very accomplished goalie and he proved that today,” Sweeden coach Rickard Gronberg told the media in Toronto postgame. “There was no change in the game plan. Unfortunately, for Lundqvist, that he couldn’t play. It was tough to make an adjustment at that point in time.”
What to watch on Day 3
Two Bruins teammates, David Pastrnak and Zdeno Chara, will do battle against each other as Czech Republic takes on Team Europe at 3 p.m. This game is of heavy interest for Team USA following their 3-0 loss to the Europeans in their preliminary round opener. The Americans will undoubtedly be rooting for the Czech’s before entering their crucial matchup against Canada tomorrow night.
In the nightcap, the 23 and under North Americans face a desperate Team Russia squad at 8 p.m.