WCoH Postgame: The Kids Are Alright, Thump Finland 4-1 in Opener

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(Kevin Sousa / USA Today Sports)

When the World Cup of Hockey was announced immediately there were snickers and guffaws about Team North America, and doubts about their ability to hang with international hockey’s big boys. When they had a few strong outings in the pre-tournament games against Europe, the doubters loudly expressed that their success was a mirage: caused by beating an inferior opponent in games that didn’t matter.

When the “real” games begin, North America’s in trouble, they said.

Whoops.

The Under-24 squad opened the round robin with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Finland, currently ranked 3rd in the hockey world by the International Ice Hockey Federation.

With their speed and intensity, North America was all over Finland early. It does not help that perhaps Pekka Rinne’s equipment had big holes or gaps, because the puck kept squeaking through him all game along and created a lot of dramatics. After they managed to kill off an early penalty to Shayne Gostisbehere, North America got a man advantage by way of a Jori Lehtera high-sticking penalty and they took advantage.

Leafs uber-prospect Auston Matthews drove into the zone, slipped a check from Rasmus Ristolainen and drove the net. The initial chance didn’t go in, but Jack Eichel knocked in the rebound to make it 1-0 for the kids.

That was the only goal of the period, and shots were “just” 13-12 for the North American side, but there were a litany of near-misses for the young guns including a Johnny Gaudreau post and a couple instances where the puck squirted through Rinne and nearly slid over the line. One of those involved the puck going in after a pile-up in the crease. It was disallowed.

The onslaught continued in the second. The near-misses from North America from the first? Well, despite their “inexperience,” the kids managed to adjust and hit the net more consistently. Shots were 18-6. Johnny Gaudreau made it 2-0 with a really nifty tip-in of a Colton Parayko slap shot from the point.

Jonathan Drouin made it 3-0 a couple minutes later, as he drove the net and knocked in a rebound after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ initial net-front chance. The deluge continued, and finally Nathan MacKinnon made it 4-0 with a nifty goal of his own.

By the time the third came around, Finland looked a bit shell-shocked and the North Americans collectively seemed to go “Whoa, we’re beating a good team!” Neither team stepped on the gas in the third, though Finland managed to break through with a goal off a defensive miscue by North America. Leo Komarov chased down a dump-in, nailing the defender with a big hit. The puck squeaked out to the slot, where Valtteri Filppula bonked it past Matt Murray. That was all she wrote in the final frame, though. Shots were 12-7 North America in the third and 43-25 overall.

After Europe’s win over the United States on Saturday and Sunday’s North American triumph, I think it’s safe to say that aside from Canada’s dominance the hockey will may be turned on its ear in this tournament. North America is back in action on Monday night against Russia, and can stamp their ticket to the semi-finals with a victory over another historic hockey powerhouse.

  • I am Batman

    The Russian D isn’t looking good.

    Just hope the Russians don’t get frustrated and start a hitting fest. We get Nuge or McD injured and we are going to start the excuse party before Halloween.

  • A-Mc

    The 2 most important games that will ultimately lock in the narrative of this tournament, despite the final outcome:

    NA vs RUS Monday night (tonight)
    CAN vs USA Tuesday night (Tomorrow)

    Everyone is talking about the young gun NA team, but as the article states, there is still some skepticism. They had a clean win last night vs Finland, but some people will still point the finger at Rinne for the loss. If NA comes out with a win tonight vs RUS, then i think it’s game over for the NA skeptics.

    CAN vs USA is less about Canada, and more about USA. To start the pre-tournament, USA was a rough team, yet when it mattered they just sort of rolled over for EU. If Canada blows them out, i wonder if the people at the top for hockey USA will re-evaluate how they construct their teams. The grit angle doesn’t seem to be working too well in these best on best tournaments.

  • Will

    Excited for the Russia game tonight. I don’t see North America taking it purely because how fired up team Russia is. They are here to win and are going to do whatever it takes. Fingers crossed it’s not Nuge nor McDavid getting the cold Russian shoulder.

    • Bob Long

      They are going to be facing a very po’d Ovi and my guess is he’s going to set the tone with some punishment. McDiver is going to have to keep his head up for sure. Little Johnny might want to sign that contract this morning.

  • Jordan88

    Team North America is on a whole other level than the rest of the teams Canada is probably its hardest competition and the only reason why is Canada is just god like.

    Basically this whole world cup will go to prove that Canada is still the best at producing top level talent as Team NA is basically team Canada 2.0 I think they have 5 americans?

  • Toofun

    TNA is the most interesting, exciting and fun team to watch in this whole tournament. How can you do anything but admire all of these remarkable kids and what they are achieving?

    Any of you guys making disparaging remarks about any of these athletes should just stop now and feel shame. These kids are great, full stop. Put your hometown biases aside until the NHL season starts. For the time being just enjoy the ride and get caught up in the passion and excitement these guys are bringing to every game.

    It’s hard to believe some people thought these games would rival the All-Star game for intensity!

    • Greatsave

      Crosby scored 3 points, was a +4, and had the game-winner in (IIRC from radio broadcast) 13 minutes and change of ice-time. No need to wear guys out when you can roll 4 lines and when your impact players can produce even when they aren’t playing 20 minutes a game.

      Oh and leading for most of the game doesn’t hurt either.