The World Cup of Hockey claimed its first scalp with Team USA, after a shock defeat to Team Europe on the opening day of the tournament.
Team Europe did it. They beat Team USA with a comprehensive 3-0 victory, establishing themselves as the tournament dark horse after the very first game.
The narrative going into the game was if the Europeans could gel as a unit. Could this makeshift band of nomads actually become a team and prove doubters?
It’s fair to say that the Europeans weren’t given an easy first kick at the can with a test against the Americans. A team that was built to win now.
Counter Attacking Style
The Americans had a bad start all thanks in part to an ex-Islander Frans Nielsen. Fransy lead a 2-1 with Gaborik to put one past Jonathan Quick to get the Europeans tails up.
They were up 1-0 against the mighty force of the American’s and they never let go.
It was a wake-up call. The Americans built themselves to beat the tournament favorites but forgot that they’d have to play against at least another two teams not named Canada.
For the first few pre-tournament games it looked like the US might just be able to walk through the group stage until they’d meet Canada on the 20th. The semi-finals looked like a real possibility. Now…not so much. They’re down one and still have that date against Canada.
It seemed like Team Europe coach Ralph Kreuger learned a thing or two from his stint as chairman of Southampton FC. Let the better team come at you in waves, soak up the pressure, and catch them on the break.
Two on None
The strategy worked marvelously as the Europeans built themselves a 2-0 lead after an unprecedented two-on-none. When was the last times you saw a two-on-none in the NHL?
If you’re lucky enough to remember such an event, then you’ll probably remember that it wasn’t exactly the most defensively sound outfit out there. And so was the US on this day.
The Europeans would add another to make it a safe 3-0 with a sloppy deflection infront of Quick. Sealing off the result and the big two points to top group A.
I haven’t even gotten to the best part; Jaroslav Halak got a shutout. If this was a preview for the regular season Halak’s performance couldn’t have gone better.
This is our starter putting two key performances together back-to-back. Once against the Swede’s in a 6-2 win stopping 34 of 36 and now a shutout against the Americans stopping another 35 shots.
Halak didn’t have to make spectacular saves, he was just a steady stable force throughout the entire contest. Which is exactly what we need, a stable presence that can become our game winner?
The Americans have their work cut-out for them to get out of the group, while the Europeans are two points closer to proving the doubters. They might be a band of nomads but maybe their difference is what makes them one. (Did that sound ridiculously hyperbolic to anyone else?)