Some Closing Thoughts on the 2016 World Cup of Hockey
– Team Canada’s tournament victory felt inevitable, though Team Europe did a fine job making the Canadians work for it in the best-of-three final. Team Canada simply had too much depth in top-flight talent that the other clubs simply couldn’t match.
– No surprise Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby was named tournament MVP. Not only did he lead all tournament scorers (10 points), he was also among the best two-way forwards. Coming off his Conn Smythe Trophy performance leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to the 2016 Stanley Cup, the 29-year-old Crosby demonstrated why he’s still the world’s top player.
– Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price’s performance with Team Canada should put to rest any lingering concern that he might be hampered by last season’s knee injury. He led all tournament starters in wins (5), goals-against average (1.40) and save percentage (.957). He was clutch in close games against Teams Russia and Europe.
– The most surprising performer for Team Canada was Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand, who scored the tournament-winning goal. Known as an agitating forward with a decent scoring touch, the 28-year-old Marchand proved that he belonged in the World Cup of Hockey. He led the tournament in goals (5) and proved to be a quality linemate with Crosby.
– While Team Canada’s victory in this tournament was expected, no one predicted Team Europe’s march to the final. This mashup of players from nine countries considered too small to ice competitive rosters for the World Cup were true underdogs. They came very close to pulling off a significant upset of the Canadians.
– New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia) played a significant part in Team Europe reaching the World Cup of Hockey final. He was also a big reason why the Canadians had such a difficult time dispatching the Europeans. Halak’s performance reminded everyone how well he can play when he’s healthy.
– Other standouts for the Europeans included forwards Anze Kopitar (Slovenia), Mats Zuccarello (Norway), Tomas Tatar (Slovakia) and center Leon Draisaitl (Germany), along with defensemen Roman Josi (Switzerland) and Zdeno Chara (Slovakia).
– Team Russia’s inability to defeat Team Canada once again cast a shadow over Russian superstar and Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin. Despite being one of the most dominant and entertaining scorers in NHL history, Ovechkin’s come up short in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Winter Olympics and now the World Cup of Hockey. Only in the World Championships has he played for a winner, earning gold in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
– Team USA had the dubious honor of being the most disappointing team in this tournament. Follow this link for a detailed look at why they failed so miserably, the changes required and their potentially bright future.
– Team North America was unquestionably the most exciting and entertaining team of the tournament. Comprised of the best North American players 23-and-younger, they won over fans and pundits with their youthful energy and up-tempo offensive style. Their average defensive game, however, proved to be their Achilles heel.
– Team Sweden was considered among the favorites to reach the final, but they were bounced from the semifinal by Team Europe. With mainstays such as goalie Henrik Lundqvist and the Sedin twins now in their mid-thirties, and nagging injuries sidelining fellow 30-something Henrik Zetterberg, the Swedes could be heading into a transition period.
– Goaltending and strong defensive play have long been the hallmarks of Team Finland. Unfortunately, their lack of offensive punch was their undoing in the World Cup of Hockey. In three games, the Finns managed only one goal. Young Finnish forwards Aleksander Barkov, Patrik Laine, Sebastien Aho and Tuevo Teravainen failed to garner a point.
– Entering the round robin, the Czech Republic must have felt good about their chances. In pre-tournament play, they split two close games with the Russians and edged Team North America 3-2. Sadly, they came up short in the round robin. They got thumped 6-0 by Team Canada, dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Team Europe and narrowly defeated Team USA 4-3 after both clubs had already been eliminated from advancing to the semis.