WCOH GAME 2: Canada vs. USA

What a glorious day.

Canada can knock the USA out of the tournament with a victory tonight. A win would give the Red and White a 2-0 record and guarantee them a berth in the playoff round, along with Team Europe, while the USA would play the Czech Republic in a meaningless game on Thursday.

How fun would it be to end the American’s tournament after only two games? I’d say about a trillion times more fun than it was to be a fan of any Canadian NHL team last year. You’ve earned it.

I thought USA management made many terrible decisions leading into the tourney, and because of it I didn’t expect them to be a real threat. I don’t understand naming John Tortorella the head coach. He hasn’t had much NHL success recently, and his philosophy of being in-your-face doesn’t jive in a tournament like this.

He clearly had a say in which players were named to the team, and he along with management decided to leave some of the most skilled American players off the roster.

Phil Kessel, the second highest scoring American during the past five NHL seasons, wasn’t added. Kyle Okposo was left at home. Offensive D-men Keith Yandle, Justin Faulk and Kevin Shattenkirk were left off the roster.

To make matters worse, in their opening game versus Team Europe, Tortorella didn’t dress Dustin Byfuglien, instead playing Jack Johnson. Are you freaking kidding me? When asked why Byfuglien wasn’t in the lineup Tortorella said, “It’s just the way it worked out through the games and the minutes (during pre-tournament games).” He then added, “Taking into account our power play and penalty killing, we felt this was the lineup to start.”

I guess Tortorella doesn’t think stats matter. Byfuglien is the highest-scoring American-born D-man during the past five seasons, and only Faulk has more PP goals in that time. I guess playing Johnson 11 minutes was more important than having Byfuglien on the ice.

It is tough enough to win in a best-on-best tournament, but when the coach and management decide to leave many of the best offensive players at home or in the stands, the team deserves to lose.

GAME TIME

8 p.m. EST/6 p.m. MST/ 5 p.m. PST on SportsNet, ESPNEWS, TVA Sports

THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • The USA hasn’t scored a goal in their last three games at the World Cup or Olympics. They have not scored a goal in 197:59 of play in best-on-best tournaments. Ironically enough, Phil Kessel scored their last goal. They were blanked 1-0 by Canada in the semi-finals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, were crushed 5-0 by Finland in the Bronze medal game and lost 3-0 to Team Europe in their opening game of the tournament.
  • I’m a huge fan of Jeremy Roenick. He’s a great guy. We had a blast when he played in the Pro-Am in Edmonton. I love how fired up he was after the USA got shutout, but I need to ask him what ‘If you look at it literally’ means. Yes, the USA won the World Cup in 1996, but Canada won it in 2004, defeating Finland in the final.

  • Quick trivia. Do you remember who led Canada in scoring at the 2004 World Cup?

LINEUPS

Byfuglien and Kyle Palmeiri (who scored 30 goals last year in the NHL, but was also a healthy scratch in game one of the tournament) will draw in. Brandon Dubinsky and Jack Johnson come out. Lines rushes this morning were:

Van Riemsdyk-Pavelski-Oshie
Abdelkader-Stepan-Kane
Parise-Kesler-Wheeler
Pacioretty-Backes-Palmieri

How do you play Abdelkader instead of Parise or Pacioretty with your best forward, Patrick Kane? It is pure lunacy, and I love it. The internal sabotage from the USA is great to see. ***Editor note. During warmup, Tortorella wised up and switched Parise and Abdelkader.***

Suter-Niskanen
McDonagh-Carlson
Johnson-Byfuglien

Quick

Canada won’t change their lineup from their 6-0 victory over the Czech Republic. Claude Giroux, Jake Muzzin and Braden Holtby will sit out again.

Marchand-Crosby-Bergeron 
Couture-Toews-Perry
Tavares-Getzlaf-Stamkos
Thornton-O’Reilly-Duchene

Vlasic-Weber 
Bouwmeester-Doughty 
Pietrangelo-Burns
Price

QUICK HITS

SpeedBag

  • “If it comes to 100% skill, they win. 100% grit, we win,” said TJ Oshie this morning. He’s bang on. Canada has more skill, but I’ll take a group of CHL grads over NCAA grads any day of the weak in an “out-grit” contest. Also, Mr. Oshie, google the war of 1812. Boom.
  • I love rivalry games. I’m so jacked up for this game. I love when Canada plays the USA. Outside of the fluke run of 1996, we own them.
  • I’m curious who spot-picker David Backes will try to go after tonight. Too bad Brent Seabrook isn’t in the lineup to remind him of the 2014 playoffs. (It is a rivalry game folks, trash talking makes it more enjoyable).
  • Carey Price hasn’t allowed a goal in 180 minutes of World Cup and Olympic action blanking the USA, Sweden and Czech Republic. Latvia’s Lauris Darzins was the last player to beat him when he scored their lone goal in Canada’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory in Sochi.

  • Trivia answer is Vincent Lecavalier.

TONIGHT

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Canada earns a playoff berth with a dominating 4-1 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: It is a feisty game. We will see a lot of scrums, face washes and a few big hits. It will be a joy to watch, especially when Canada scores first.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Late addition Ryan O’Reilly scores for Canada, and later Corey Perry adds an assist giving all 12 forwards at least one point in the tournament.