If the first exhibition game between the U.S. and Canada is any preview of what’s to come during the tournament, there might not be anyone left standing by the time it’s all over.
In a physical, chippy game between the North American rivals in Columbus, Ohio, Friday night, the U.S. pulled out a 4-2 victory that was anything but pretty. With the exception of about a five-minute span at the end of the first period, Canada controlled the puck while the U.S. played a physical game.
Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski and Derek Stepan all scored in the U.S. win, while Patrice Bergeron and Drew Doughty got on the score sheet for Canada.
Tempers flared early and often, showing the rivalry is alive and well, which should make for an excellent game on Sept. 20 during the actual tournament. Team USA and Canada will meet again Saturday night in Ottawa yet another pre-tournament matchup.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from USA’s win Friday night.
1. Both teams played the game with the exact styles you’d expect
That game was a very on-brand performance for both teams. Canada dominated possession and scoring chances, while the U.S. tried to grind it out and rely on exceptional goaltending. Lucky for the U.S., they got great goaltending (more on that in a bit).
USA played exactly the game coach John Tortorella wanted them to, which he said was going to be based on “inflicting.” They were physical, they were getting pucks deep, blocking a lot of shots and really clogging up the middle of the ice in the offensive zone. What they weren’t doing, however, was controlling the puck with any kind of regularity.
The U.S. started the game by getting out-shot 12-1 through the first 15 minutes. Then they turned things around and played their best five minutes of the game. During that stretch, they evened out the shot counter, got more sustained pressure and scored two goals. They really seemed to open things up there.
Over the next two periods, though, Team USA would put a total of eight shots on net, with only two coming in the third period. Conversely, Canada poured 28 shots on goal in the latter 40 minutes of the game. The Canadians also owned 65 percent of the shot attempts at even strength over the full contest.
Meanwhile, the U.S. was doing everything they could to get Canada off their game. They also got a little reckless, with a few hits that knocked Canadian players out of the game briefly. Canada never really flinched in the face of the pestering, but they lost.
It worked for one game, but will it work when these games count?
2. Jonathan Quick was a big reason Team USA won
When a team plays the way USA did, getting out-shot and out-possessed badly, you can make up for it with stellar goaltending. Quick was excellent early in the game and likely was the difference.
He played only the first two periods, but saw 33 shots over the span. The only goal he allowed was on a broken play caused by a D-zone turnover by the U.S. He did have to get bailed out by his team once, though, as Ryan Kesler saved a sure goal with a timely block in front of the U.S. net.
The U.S. has a tough decision to make about their starting goalie. Seeing who gets the most time Saturday may be a good indication, but if they were already leaning Quick, he may have solidified their decision. Tortorella has been mum on his decision, however.
3. Carey Price looked a little rusty, but that shouldn’t be cause for alarm
Carey Price just played his first game after a 10-month layoff while recovering from a knee injury. He started the game and remained in it until he was pulled for an extra attacker late, stopping 20 of 23 shots.
The first period was when he appeared to be at his shakiest, which is to be expected. The first goal he allowed, there was nothing he could do about it. But Patrick Kane’s goal looked preventable as Price was unable to seal off the post, allowing a bad-angle shot to trickle in.
Having Price in a live hockey game at all is a good sign for Team Canada and Montreal Canadiens fans, though. It’s not like he played poorly, either. It just wasn’t the Price we’re used to seeing, which we shouldn’t have expected after the long layoff anyway. He’ll probably get at least half of one more game to test himself before the tournament is for real.
4. Team USA’s grit was on full display
As noted above, Team USA played a physical game. There were some heavy hits out there and the directive was pretty clear. Tortorella wanted them finishing checks and always letting the opponent know they’re there. A sampling:
Former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes sent a message to former teammate and new Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo with this blow:
Ryan Kesler actually got thrown out of the game for boarding Shea Weber. Jonathan Toews tossed his gloves and went after Kesler before Weber got to his feet and looked really upset. Full video of that incident here.
Logan Couture briefly left the game after taking this awkward hit from T.J. Oshie. Couture did eventually return.
Claude Giroux was hobbled by this check from Joe Pavelski. It wasn’t a dirty hit as Pavelski was trying to go in pretty normally. Their legs connected, though. Like Couture, Giroux would return.
Canada was trying to give it back a bit, too. Here’s Sidney Crosby delivering a little cross check to Kyle Palmieri early in the game, which caused a pretty big scrum.
Who knows if this strategy will work for USA in the tournament, but it was effective enough Friday.
5. Canada’s Marchand-Crosby-Bergeron line is pretty special
Though Canada may have lost, coach Mike Babcock was justified for putting Crosby between two Boston Bruins. They got Canada’s first goal of the game and were an absolute nightmare for U.S. defensemen.
Here’s a look at the goal, which was created off of a sneaky turnover forced by Marchand, finished off with aplomb by Bergeron after Crosby’s initial chance.
Marchand was doing a lot with his speed to the outside, Crosby was doing his usual best-player-in-the-world thing and Bergeron continued being the possession monster he is, while also adding a nice goal.
Those three players finished the night with a combined 17 shots on goal. Bergeron had seven of them. They continually had to deal with tough assignments and it just didn’t matter as they often looked effortless in the offensive zone. That trio is going to be scary in the tournament.
Source: CBS Sports / USA beats Canada in intense, physical World Cup tune-up: 5 takeaways