Finland vs. Russia/USA vs. Czech Republic Recaps


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Finland vs. Russia

 

By Frank McNichol

Staff Writer

 

Everyone knew what was at stake going into this contest; a win for Russia would spell the end of the road for the young guns from North America. An entire continent’s hopes rested solely with Finland, and today those hopes were crushed as Russia cruised to the 3-0 victory.
The first period got off to a lollygagging start. Neither team could assert themselves as the aggressor in the feeling-out process. To give you an idea of the pace of play, Finland recorded their first shot on net 8:44 into the period. The shots on goal battle in the period was won by Russia who outshot Finland 6 to 3. Finland failed to capitalize on both powerplay opportunities they had, while Russia couldn’t convert on the 16 second man advantage they had to end the period. Overall, things were looking good for Finland. The Russians were expected to come out firing and desperate to somewhat redeem themselves for recent early dismissals from international play, but instead came out flat and uninspired. The Finns came out with an objective in mind to neutralize Ovechkin and the Russian offense, which they accomplished with ease.
Where the Finns succeeded in the first, they failed in the second. Russia started off the period with 1:44 of powerplay time. The Finns killed it off with relative ease, and looked to start pushing their offensive pace. Exactly one minute of play later, Mikael Granlund was fed a beautiful pass in the slot by Jori Lehtera and rang a beauty right off the post. The Finns would immediately reap the consequences of missed opportunities when Alex Ovechkin stepped up to the plate with a beautiful cross crease pass to Vladimir Tarasenko for a tap in goal. Finland net minder Tuukka Rask stood no chance on the play, he had to respect Ovechkin’s shot while the Finnish defense failed to find Tarasenko who slipped in right behind them.
Not even two minutes later, a lesser known Russian duo connected for a goal. After some established zone time, Russian center Vadim Shipachyov slipped a pass behind Leo Komarov to winger Ivan Telegin just in front of the right hand side of the red crease line who had a clear horizontal lane to the net and out waited a sprawling Rask for an easy top shelf tally. In the previous period, Telegin valiantly blocked a Patrick Laine slapshot on the penalty kill, further proof that goals heel all wounds.
While Finland would go on to out shoot Russia in the period 6-5, it was the Russians who clearly dominated play.
Going into the third period, the Finns were tasked with having to score at least two goals to tie the game, and seeing as they have only scored one goal in the first two games, they knew it was too tall of a task. Any attack they tried to muster either rang off the pipe or was stopped by Sergei Bobrovsky, who probably didn’t break a sweat the entire game.
3:30 into the third period during a 4 on 4 situation, Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who had a very impressive tournament thus far, was fighting for a loose puck in the offensive zone when he was blindsided by the linesman. The massive hit took Ristolainen out of the play, leaving the puck to Alexei Emelin who fed the puck to Evgeni Malkin on a 2-on-1 rush up the ice with lots of space. Malkin, who was held scoreless the first two games of the tournament, came up smooth with the easy wrister past Tuukka Rask making it a 3-0 lead for Team Russia. Given Team Finland’s bone-dry offensive output, the game may as well have ended there.
The Finns would not be able to muster up any significant offense in the remaining 16:21 of play, and Russia was able to silence their critics and live to fight another day. The shot total for the game was 22-21 in favor of the Russians, which is a good indicator of the slow paced tilt.
For Team Finland, who went winless in three games in the tournament, nothing seeme

d to go their way. Expectations were high for the team despite being placed in the tougher of the two groups, largely because of their exciting young talent. The trio of Aleksander Barkov, Sebastian Aho, and last year’s #2 overall pick Patrick Laine were expected to spark the Finnish offense, but none of them even recorded a point in the three games. Despite the putrid performance, and loss to their arch rival Sweden, the future still looks bright for Finland hockey.
As for Team Russia, they will go on to face Team Canada, a team of horrors for them, this coming Saturday at 8 PM Eastern. Russia’s victory today and second place finish in Group B behind Sweden was enough to quiet the critics for now, but another loss to Team Canada will put them right back on the media skillet. If Team Russia will have any hope of beating Canada, they will need the Tarasenko-Ovechkin connection to remain hot while veterans Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk step up their disappointing play. This team has the offensive firepower and stability in net to compete, but an unproven defensive corps could do them in.

 

USA vs. Czech Republic

 

By Sean Ambrosia

Staff Writer

 

Team USA spent most of the 48 hours leading up tonight’s puck drop against the Czech Republic on defense. The team’s top brass has taken fire for a roster selection which valued grit over skill in an attempt to match up against Canada, but which left talent like Phil Kessel watching the tournament at home. Coach John Tortorella has taken flack for some of his bizarre decisions with the team’s lineup, which included scratching Dustin Byfuglien against Team Europe, and pairing Patrick Kane on a line with Justin Abdelkader. Even former USA Hockey players, including members of the ’96 World Cup wining team, took to social media to offer criticism of the team’s performance. This deluge of criticism upped the pressure on the Americans leading into what was an otherwise meaningless game against the Czechs, with both teams having been eliminated earlier in the week. 
 
Though not enough to send them through to semi-final, a convincing win in their final game would have gone a long ways toward vindicating Team USA’s World Cup performance. But a lackluster game against the Czechs, probably the weakest team in tournament, would only compound the criticism of the front office, the coaching staff, and ultimately the players. With these steaks weighing on their minds, Team USA took the Air Canada Centre ice Thursday evening for the final time this World Cup against a Czech team that had been outscored 9-2 in its first two group stage games.
 
While the US came out of the gate with more energy and intensity than they had shown against Canada it was the Czech Republic who grabbed the opening goal of the game at 12:44 of the first period. With a delayed penalty called against the US, Czech Defenseman Zbynek Michalek scored on Ben Bishop. The US responded shortly, tying the game with 5:32 remaining in the first on a Joe Pavelski goal with assists from Patrick Kane and Zach Parise, and the teams headed into the intermission deadlocked at one. In the second period momentum swung in favor of the Czechs, who put up 3 goals in the period. The good night for the Michalek family continued, with Zybnek’s brother Michalek recording two goals in the period, the first at 6:03 of the period, and the second at 17:29. On the American side, forward Justin Abdelkader, whose inclusion on the roster over more highly skilled options was a source of some controversy, scored the team’s second goal midway through the period. The third period belonged to the Americans, who controlled the momentum from the opening faceoff, and managed to close the deficit to one goal on a Ryan McDonagh short handed effort early in the period. Team USA continued to create the majority of the offensive opportunities throughout the remainder of the period, but it was too little too late, as the Czech defense managed to withstand the US offensive attack- including a late period US power play, and handed Team USA their third loss in as many games at this World Cup. 
 
Tonight’s loss leaves Team USA at 0-3 for the tournament, their worst showing in a major international tournament featuring NHL players. With the uncertainty surrounding the negotiation to send NHLers to the 2018 Olympics, it also raises questions about the future of a USA Hockey program which may have to wait four years for their senior men’s team to get a chance to redeem their poor performance. That being said, there is a significant bright spot for the future of the USA Hockey program to be found in the World Cup performance of the young American talent on Team North America. Budding American stars such as Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, and Auston Matthews seem primed to lead the core of a Team USA that could legitimately compete for gold in coming years. For now though, Team USA is left to lick their wounds and assess what went wrong, and NHL fans can at least be consoled by the lack of major injuries to the team’s star players.

Not Enough Talent to Win on Grit Alone – Team USA Eliminated


By Mike Meyer

Staff Writer

 

I took some time out before writing this piece to really figure out how I wanted to express my opinions on the loss. Not wanting to let emotions and rash decisions fuel the words, but really to reflect on what the product on the ice reflected for Team USA. This roster was constructed to beat one team: Team Canada. The gritty additions to lineup such as Justin Abdelkader and Brandon Dubinsky were to pester, annoy, and mentally disrupt guys like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and Jonathan Toews. The problem with this mentality? They’re already used to that. Playing guys like Dubinsky and Abdelkader all year long helps the elite players that they are to cross that bridge and paly their game at this international stage. In order to beat Team Canada, you have to beat them at their own game.

 

The United States ultimately put themselves behind the eight ball early in their tournament preparation by hiring head coach, John Tortorella. Through if the style of play was to annoy and antagonize the opposition the entire tournament, they certainly got their man. What lessons have we learned from the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the high-flying and speed demon, Pittsburgh Penguins took on the San Jose Sharks? Speed kills. Skill dominates. You can’t hit what you can’t catch.

 

The United States got the early goal on a gritty rebound from defenseman, Ryan McDonagh as he luckily crashed the net and was at the right place at the right time. The team got what they wanted early on, took the home crowd out of it, and were on the right course to victory. However, after a couple of defensive lapses and skill, Matt Duchene and Corey Perry helped Team Canada to go back up on top 2-1. Team Canada ultimately defeated The United States roster not only on the scoreboard 4-2, but in every aspect of the 60 minute game. While the team was busy preparing to defend against the top rated players on Canada’s roster, their “depth” players were the ones that stole the show.

 

Can’t help but wonder what the United States would have been capable of doing had they modeled their best player available roster and competed skill against skill. When a goal is needed against Team Europe or Canada to bring life back to the bench, where was Phil Kessel? Tweeting about the United States Team:

 

“Just sitting around the house tonight (with) my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”

 

Talent was left off of the United States roster that could very well have been a deciding factor in this tournament. When the top players on your roster fail to convert throughout the game, its your depth that pulls you up. Highly skilled hockey players were left off the roster to make room for grit and tenacity. Players such as: Phil Kessel (PIT), Tyler Johnson (TBL), Paul Stastny (STL), Kyle Okposo (BUF) were all left off of this roster to fill the philosophy that was “grind it out” hockey.

 

Even leaving the forwards out of the picture. Going with the heavy and two-way style up front could potentially have worked if there were a bigger offensive power on the backend. I still stand by my opinions on Dustin Byfuglien and his offensive talents. He had a bad tournament and was not deployed properly. However, players such as Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson could have been replaced with that of Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), Justin Falk (CAR), and Keith Yandle (FLA). All three of these players have proven themselves to be not only high-powered offensive talent, but highly talented defensemen alone. Team USA could have counted themselves blessed to have any one of these three in their lineup to help quarterback their Power Play or help control the neutral and defensive zones.

 

At the end of the day, however, the lineup is what the lineup is. And players, coaches, and fans must sit back and watch what the teams of executives come together to put out on the ice. Said coach John Tortorella about his team:

 

“You guys can beat up the roster all you want. You look at some of those players on our roster, there are some pretty good skilled players and we just simply did not do enough offensively and we self-inflicted quite a bit in two games.”

 

Offense was needed to beat Team Canada and Europe you say? Offense was needed to win a game? You don’t beat speed and skill with grit. Maybe it was the late Herb Brooks who said and did it best, as I attempt to get this quote as close as possible: “You don’t win by protecting, you attack. You beat them at their own game” when discussing about the powerhouse Soviet Union in the 1980s. To show success again internationally, the United States need show what kind of talent has grown in its own backyard. 

 

Back to the drawing board, boys

Team USA Falters in Loss to Team Europe


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By Mike Meyer

Staff Writer

The United States not only put themselves in the hole early in the game, but in the tournament also. After a goal against the United States on the first shot from Marian Gaborik, Team Europe never looked back. 

Dustin Byfuglien, arguably the United States number one defenseman, was a late scratch before the game against Team Europe. “We made the decision before the game this was our best lineup,” Tortorella said to the media. The game was certainly missing a lot of intensity from the United States squad and could have used the experience, defensive talent, and certainly offensive talent as well from Dustin Bufuglien. 

Make no mistake, Team Europe was on their game early through the first 60 minutes, and defense in the final 20 while the United States seemed to finally wake up. Efficient in their scoring and opportunities by scoring on 3 of their first 9 shots on net against goaltender Jonathan Quick. Effective on their defense and in net as Slovakian netminder Jarolav Halak stopped all 35 shots on net. However, the United States seemed to have come out flat and never reached second gear throughout the game. The attempted shots from Forward and Defensive players alike were not efficient, creative, and rarely were not dangerous. 

For the United States, they are now forced to play to win the last two games of this set. Tuesday against Team Canada will not come easy and is a MUST win and dig deep moment already in this tournament. Though Coach ‘Torts’ may think that keeping Byfuglien and Palmeri might work best for his plans, what may work best against the rest of the opposition May to just do the obvious and throw your best players out on the ice and stay out of it. 

Team Europe vs. Team USA Recap


Game Recap: Europe 3, USA 0
Jaroslav Halak of Team Europe
 
By Sean Ambrosia
Staff Writer
The 2016 edition of the World Cup Of Hockey began Saturday afternoon in Toronto with a 3-0 upset victory by Team Europe over Team USA.
 
Team Europe came out more confidently than expected, going up 1-0 at 4:19 of the first period on a goal by Marian Gaborik of Slovakia, giving them a lead they would never relinquish. The Europeans largely controlled the pace of play, limiting offensive opportunities for Team USA.   The US looked flat and stymied on both sides of the puck for most of the game, and allowed 2 more goals in the 2nd period to give Team Europe a 3-0 victory.
 
The lone bright spot for the Americans came with late in the 2nd period when James Van Riemsdyk  appeared to draw the Americans within one, scoring a powerplay goal with 5:50 remaining. However, the goal was overturned on video review, which determined that the puck had been illegally directed on net with Van Riemsdyk glove. Following the overturned call, momentum swung firmly back in Team Europe’s direction, and shortly before time expired in the period Frenchman Pierre-Edoudard Bellemare scored to put his squad up 3-0.
 
Jaroslav Halak was dominant in net for Team Europe, saving all 35 shots attempted at him, although the lackluster offense from Team USA meant that he didn’t face many spectacular scoring opportunities. The New York Islanders’ netminder made 11 of those saves on the penalty kill. Though he only appeared on the scoresheet once (on an assist on the Gaborik goal), Frans Neilsen had a solid game offensively for the Europeans, and was involved on a couple of scoring opportunities. Leon Draisaitl also had a good afternoon, recording the 2nd goal for Team Europe. 
 
On the American side, the effort turned in by the big names on the roster especially left something to be desired. Early in the first, Patrick Kane turned over the puck in the offensive zone, leading to the goal by Gaborik. Jonathan Quick let in 3 goals on only 17 shot faced.
 
Unfortunately for Team USA, the short round-Robin format (each team plays only 3 games) means that even a single loss can be devastating. At the very least losing game one to Europe will make their remaining games, against the Czech Republic and Canada, into must wins. For Team Europe, today’s win proves their ability to compete and win against high level opponents. It also went a long way towards putting to rest any questions about the chemistry of a team comprised of players from 8 different countries who have never before played together internationally. 

Team USA Preview: Forwards


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By Mike Meyer

Staff Writer

 

As we inch closer day by day to the World Cup of Hockey, it’s time to take a look at the United States Forwards. The team will have their work cut out for them, but with some good chemistry and effort, can certainly make it deep in the World Cup of Hockey. Prelim’s have already started and it’s time to start getting to know who is going to be out on the ice. It’s time for a roll call.

Detroit Red Wings Headshots

Name: Justin Abdelkader

Height: 6-2

Weight: 218 lbs

Team: Detroit Red Wings

Shoots: Left

Known for more of his physical style of play, Abdelkader is an interesting addition to the United States roster. As a surprising late addition, Abdelkader brings a bit more than just a physical presence to the lineup. After leading the Detroit Red Wings in hits (207), penalty minutes (120), and 42 points in his 2015-16 campaign, Justin seems to be determined to prove he can be more than just a muscle on the ice. At 29 years old, he saw the 10th most amount of minutes for the Red Wings, and managed to be ranked within the top 5 for both power play and even-strength goals. A last-minute choice for this squad could prove to be a useful tool in the upcoming tournament, if deployed correctly. 

St. Louis Blues HeadshotsName: David Backes

Height: 6-3

Weight: 221 lbs

Team: Boston Bruins

Shoots: Right

The former Captain of the St. Louis Blues will look to sport the red, white, and blue once more before trading in his blue and yellow in to the black and yellow of the Boston Bruins. Ready to kick off his 2016-17 season, Backes will be looked to for his leadership abilities and physical presence on the ice that he has always been highly regarded for. The two-time Olympian should certainly still have enough left in the tank at 32 years old to make a strong impression on the opposition. While looking to build on his 0.57 point per game and 3 hits per game pace from 2015-16, Backes will also look to build off of his 4 points (3G, 1A) in 6 games from the 2014 Winter Olympics. 

brandon-dubinsky-hockey-headshot-photoName: Brandon Dubinsky

Height: 6-2

Weight: 216 lbs

Team: Columbus Blue Jackets

Shoots: Left

Brandon Dubinsky is a strong, physical Center who plays a big and physical game. Played 10 games for USA in World Championships between 2008 & 2010. Registered 10 (3 Goals, 7 Assists) of his 13 points (6 Goals, 7 Assists) throughout 6 games in 2010. Coming off of a 17 goal, 48 point season through 75 games season. Strong, physical Center who plays a big and physical game.

patrick-kane-hockey-headshot-photoName: Patrick Kane (A)

Height: 5-11

Weight: 177 lbs

Team: Chicago Blackhawks

Shoots: Left

2007: OHL All-Rookie Team, First All-Star Team, Rookie of the Year, CHL Rookie of the Year

First overall selection in 2007 NHL Draft.

2008: NHL All-Rookie Team, Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year)

2010: Winter Olympics Silver Medalist

Stanley Cup Champion: 2010, 2013, 2015

NHL All-Star: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016

Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP): 2013

Art Ross Trophy (Most Points): 2015-16

Ted Lindsay (Most Outstanding Player): 2015-16

Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): 2015-16

NHL Career total 663 points (251 Goals, 412 Assists) in 658 games. This lands him good for 1.01 Points Per Game during his career as a Blackhawk. Throughout International play, Kane has again notched a point per game pace of 19 points in 19 games. Despite the unfortunate finish for the United States, Kane’s most recent appearance in the 2014 Olympics, earned him an additional 4 assists in 6 games. I’m sure that Patrick would love to continue to add to this list of accomplishments and trophy’s while helping his country along to another top placement in the World Cup of Hockey. Love him or hate him (depending on your team allegiance), Kane is a must have on this squad and (like every game) should be considered an immediate threat every time he steps on to the ice.

27012Name: Ryan Kesler

Height: 6-2

Weight: 202 lbs

Team: Anaheim Ducks

Shoots: Right

Kesler is an effective two-way, shut-down forward who, at 32 years of age, can still contribute to this United States group. Whether he is blocking the puck in his defensive end on the penalty kill, or dishing a set up pass for a goal, Ryan Kesler’s name will be heard at this tournament. With his size, Kesler can add a presence in front of the net during even strength and power play time to screen or deflect pucks. He may not be the 60-75 point per season player he used to be, but Ryan Kesler should still be relied on for roughly a 0.67 point per game pace throughout the regular season and in the World Cup Tournament.

29088Name: T.J. Oshie

Height: 5-11

Weight: 189 lbs

Team: Washington Capitals

Shoots: Right

Before his historic success in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, T. J. Oshie was said to have ‘just made the final cut’ to suit up for the United States squad. The same late decision, Oshie, went on to lead the United States team to an eight-round, 3-2 shootout victory after his repeated shootout attempts over Russian goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky. Though it is unlikely that something to that magnitude would ever occur in the World Cup of Hockey, Oshie will  be looked at to bring his two-way abilities and energy to the rest of the lineup and locker room.

Since 2010, he has played 22 International games and managed 14 total points (7 goals, 7 assists). To play Devil’s Advocate, Oshie’s point totals to seem to come in patches. Though he did manage 4 points in his 3 games in the 2014 Olympics, T.J. only managed a lone goal through 4 games in the 2013 Ice Hockey World Championships. Hopefully T.J. will be able to take some lessons he learned from Sochi, and from his first year in Washington to carry over into the upcoming tournament.

30638Name: Max Pacioretty

Height: 6-2

Weight: 213 lbs

Team: Montreal Canadiens 

Shoots: Left

Scoring 30 goals and 34 assists, Pacorietty lead the Canadiens throughout the 2015-16 not only in points, but as their team Captain as well. A consistent 60+ point scorer over the last 3 seasons, Max is has been more know to have his deadly shot score on even strength, rather than on the power play. A consistent and lethal shot on even strength will come in hand every moment for the United States throughout this tournament. Look for Max to get time in the Top 6 and still plenty of time to convert on every opportunity.

32275Name: Kyle Palmeri

Height: 5-10

Weight: 185 lbs

Team: New Jersey Devils

Shoots: Right

Palmeri is currently coming off his first season a New Jersey Devil and a career high 57 points in 82 games. Ready and waiting to show the world of hockey what he can do, Palmeri may not be able to get the ice-time with the talent and depth at rightwing in front of him. The 25-year-old is the youngest player amongst his forward companions, but should certainly be more than capable to handle the work load, should it be given to him. Though Palmeri has shown success in New Jersey, his 13.5% shooting percentage from 2015-16 was above his career average (11.8%). Though I do not see this as much of a caution as Kyle was able to muster up on average 0.74 extra shots on goal per night, and extend his ATOI (Average Time On Ice) by nearly 4 minutes from his time in Anaheim while compared to New Jersey. It is just again a word of caution toward his success and projections in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey Tournament.

27029Name: Zach Parise

Height: 5-11

Weight: 196 lbs

Team: Minnesota Wild

Shoots: Left

Struggling through an MCL sprain at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, a back injury at the end of the season, and an aggravation of the injury once more that would ultimately ended his playoffs early, Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise is said to be ready to go for the 2016-17 season. We will likely get a good look as to how ready he actually is in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey Tournament as he should likely fall in the Top 6 amongst the forward lines. Regardless of his rough outing in the 2014 Olympics where he managed only 1 goal in 6 games, internationally, Parise has been a reliable strength for the United States over the last decade. Scoring a total of 19 points in 23 games, he has been consistent for a 0.82 points per game pace, which closely matches his 0.81 point per game pace over the last three seasons with the Wild. A figure that the United States will likely need on their side. Despite the risk for of injury for a player, and irritation of  old injuries, Parise should get every chance to succeed in the upcoming tournament.

27261Name: Joe Pavelski (C) 

Height: 5-11

Weight: 190 lbs

Team: San Jose Sharks

Shoots: Right

After a successful 2015-16 season, the San Jose Sharks Captain looks to add more to the legend that is: The Big Pavelski. Three consecutive seasons now, Joe Pavelski has played all 82 games and posted at least 70 points in those games. Pavelski has been as good as they come averaging just under a point per game pace over those last 246 games. And not only that, throughout the 2015-16 season, Joe managed the 5th most goals in the NHL (38), the most Game Winning Goals (11) and 6th in total points (78). In his most recent outing with Team USA, Joe was able to once again manage just under a point per game pace with 5 points (1G4A) in 6 games during the 2014 Winter Olympics. With his performance over the last three years in both regular season and international play, Joe has earned every reason to play with the best on the top line for the United States.

31511Name: Derek Stepan

Height: 6-0

Weight: 196 lbs

Team: New York Rangers

Shoots: Right

Derek Stepan has all the necessary tools, the skillset and history to be in the United States squad. Over the last 3 seasons, he has played 222 games for the Rangers, racked up 165 points, and if he can stay healthy, has all the tools to be a 60 point scorer over an 82 game season. Stepan though may be too far buried in the depth chart though to get that chance. Likely to fight for a spot in the lineup with former teammate Brandon Dubinsky, Stepan may be inserted only on a timeshare basis. If the coaching staff does intend to lean on physical presence and grit, count Dubinsky in and Stepan out. However, if the cards favor skillset in a matchup, Stepan could very well land time as a 4th liner behind a deep and skilled group of centermen.  Stepan brings to the table 8 International appearances and 7 points in those games. If a slip up does occur, expect for Stepan to step in. 

james-van-riemsdyk-hockey-headshot-photoName: James van Riemsdyk

Height: 6-3

Weight: 217 lbs

Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

Shoots: Left

A Fractured foot in January 2016 left van Riemsdyk out for the remainder of the 2015-16 season. On pace for a 60 point season after scoring 29 points in 40 games (14G15A), James has been one of the few bright lights amongst a dismal Toronto squad over the last few seasons. He led the Maple Leafs during the 2014-15 with 56 points in 82 games (27G29A) and will look to lead the charge once again after the World Cup Tournament. In his most recent international appearance in the 2014 Olympics, van Riemsdyk was once again one of the few good notes from a disappointing United States squad after putting up 7 points in 6 games (1G6A). Look for James van Riemsdyk to be an underrated asset that the United States holds in their corner. 

28340Name: Blake Wheeler

Height: 6-5

Weight: 225 lbs

Team: Winnipeg Jets

Shoots: Right

Recently named Winnipeg Jets team Captain, Wheeler seems ready and prepared to get the ball rolling on the 2016-17 season. After coming off a career high 78 points in 82 games (26G52A), it’s time for Wheeler to prove that he can do it again.  Expecting for Wheeler to see his fair share of ice-time, Wheeler (like the rest of the 2014 United States Olympic Team) should be looking for a bounce-back tournament after managing only 1 assist in 6 games. Over the last 3 seasons with the Jets, Wheeler has suited up for 243 games and collected 208 total points, bringing him to a 0.86 PPG pace. Despite his large stature, Wheeler is known for his speed and puck handling skills and should look to use those skills to his advantage to help lead the United States deep in the tournament.

How would you draw the lines?           

Parise Pavelski Kane
Pacioretty Kesler Wheeler
van Riemsdyk Backes Oshie
Abdelkader Dubinsky Palmieri

Extra: Stepan

*information was obtained from hockeyreference.comdobberhockey.com

** pictures were obtained from nhlpa.com

Team USA Defense Preview


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By Mike Meyer

Staff Writer

 

Dustin Byfuglien

Age: 31

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 260 lbs

Shoots: Right

Team: Winnipeg Jets

 

Known for his physical style, bruising hits, and two-way ability, Byfuglien is a multipurpose player that the United States are glad to have on their side of the play. Though drafted as a defensemen in 2003, Dustin has been known to play both Forward and Defense throughout his career. Should Head Coach, John Torteralla choose to use Byfuglien as a forward in the offensive zone from time to time, he should be all to comfortable standing in front from his time in Chicago.

 

Over the last 2 seasons with the Jets, Byfuglien has played 150 games while amassing 98 points on the backend. Though a ‘friendly’ tournament, don’t be surprised to see the big-bodied defenseman build upon his 3.05 shots per game and 2.7 hits per game average from the 2015-16 season. The 2010 Stanley Cup Champion and 4x NHL All-Star should be quickly noticeable by fans as he will likely look to use his size and stature to guard the defensive zone.

 

John Carlson

Age: 26

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 218 lbs

Shoots: Right

Team: Washington Capitals

 

As the youngest player amongst this defensive corps, John Carlson may be looked at in a different light for the tournament. Though many would say that experience comes with age, Carlson certainly does not have much to prove. The former 27th overall draft pick from 2008 can already boast several awards from London Knights of the OHL including: MVP award, Best Defensemen, Rookie of the Year, Playoff Performer of the Year. And that was only from playing one year on the team. Carlson as well can add World Junior Championships All-Star Team, Calder Cup Champion, and 2 points (1 goal and 1 assist) throughout 6 Olympic Games. All of this done by the time that he was just barely over 24 years old.

 

The defenseman has amassed 53 goals and 228 points in 454 total NHL career games for the Washington Capitals (39 in 56 games last season) and certainly made a name for himself (at the very least) as a legitimate Top 4 NHL Defensemen. Look for Carlson to be one of the higher notes on the backend that could certainly push Dustin Byfuglien for a spot in the Top 2, as well as for time on special teams.

 

Erik Johnson

Age: 28

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 231 lbs

Shoots: Right

Team: Colorado Avalanche

 

The former 2006, 1st overall draft pick is certainly not shy when it comes to playing for the United States in international play. Since 2007, Johnson has played in 4 international tournaments: 1 World Junior (Bronze medal, Best Defenseman Award, and lead the tournament with 10 points in 7 games), 2 World Championships (5th place and Bronze medal) and 1 Olympic Games (Silver Medal). While being drafted 1st overall by the St. Louis Blues, Johnson was slated to be an elite defenseman and one of the next ‘big things’ on the blue line. Unfortunately, plans to do always go according to plan. Breaking down his numbers, Johnson can be viewed as one of the more riskier choices on the backend. His career -43 rating is downright alarming (-19 during his 2015-16 season) and has only finished on the positive side twice out of his nine years in the NHL. While Johnson can certainly put the puck on net with his blazing shot, he has a mediocre career average of converting at 5.3% of the time. Whereas he put 175 shots on net this past season (converted 6.3%), it seems that he could stand to take his time when shooting or look for better options during the play.

 

Though the NHL has not given him the best of results, internationally, Johnson has proven to be a useful source. In the 2010 Olympics, he managed 1 goal in 6 games,  a +3 rating, and only 4 penalty minutes. In the 2012-13 season during the World Championships, he managed 4 points (2 goals and 2 assists) in 10 games, a +5 overall rating, and 20 penalty minutes. Though International play is when he seems to do better, throughout the tournament Johnson will need support from his line mates and his goaltender to help him out defensively.

 

Jack Johnson

Age: 29

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 238 lbs

Shoots: Left

Team: Columbus Blue Jackets

 

Mr. “Captain America”. Or so he was known as in Columbus. Dating back to the U17 tournament in 2004, Jack Johnson has suited up in the Red White and Blue a whopping 74 times. Let’s go over that again… 74 times Jack Johnson has patrolled the blue line and represented the United States. Between 2004-2013, Jack has put on the United States colors and emblem at least once per calendar year minus 2008. At the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, however, Johnson could very well be at the games for the United States, but once again sitting out.

 

Likely due to his performance in the 2013-14 season, Johnson was considered to be “snubbed” from the 2014 Sochi Olympics and could see himself this year skating as an extra during these Games. A blue-collar player, Jack Johnson is a skating definition of grind it out, North-South American Hockey. Though blue-collar is always nice to have, statistically his point production and ability to compete at a higher level also comes in to question. Over the last 2 seasons, Johnson has played 139 games for the Blue Jackets and has accounted for 14 goals and 40 points (0.29 PPG) and a -19 overall rating. Though an always reliable option and ready to play skater, the United States may already have their blue-collar skaters in Ryan McDonagh and Matt Niksanan, which could force Jack out of the starting lineup this year.

 

Ryan McDonagh

Age: 27

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 213 lbs

Shoots: Left

Team: New York Rangers

 

Ryan McDonagh is the classic two-way defenseman that every team needs. Career 127 points in 390 games. +114 rating (+26 during 2015-16). A 6.4% career shooting percentage (8.0% during 2015-16 season). Career  23:21 average TOI.

 

Sure the former 2007, 12th overall draft pick is not the flashiest of players on the scoresheet, but he doesn’t need to be. When it comes to it, the Ranges Captain can help keep the puck out of the defensive zone, feed crisp passes to the forwards, and occasionally chip in on a goal. Unfortunately, time and performance is worrisome since a suffered late season concussion last season from Philadelphia Flyers Wayne Simmonds. While averaging only 20:41 TOI during 3 games in the playoffs, McDonagh registered zero points in 3 games played, only 3 shots on net, and was an overall -1 rating. Statistically speaking, Ryan McDonagh was a shell of himself on the ice. Though there is the worry, should his recovery and offseason training be going well, there should be no reason not to expect the 2015-16 All-Star to be at his best for the tournament.

 

Matt Niskanen

Age: 29

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 204 lbs

Shoots: Right

Team: Washington Capitals

 

Drafted 28th overall in 2005 by Dallas Stars. He has a career 655 games played under his belt between Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington. With 44 career goals and 230 total points (.35 PPG player). Though the 2013-14 season spiked his average where he scored 46 points in 81 games where he averaged .57 PPG. Has seen point totals drop slightly below average where he has seen around 31.5 points over the last 2 seasons with Washington. The good and impressive news though is that his points are mostly coming off of EV Strength time. Something that the United States will need against some of the bigger clubs in the tournament who may not take as many penalties.

 

So what does this mean for Team USA? Matt doesn’t shoot a lot and so this shouldn’t come as a big surprise during the tournament. He only took 150 total shots last season in 82 games, while sporting a lower than career average 3.3% conversion rate (4.4% career). In 2009, he did see time in the World Championship Games. In 9 games played, Matt was able to lock up 3 points (1 goal and 2 assists). ‘Nisk’ is another American that likes to play the body, block shots and grind out the puck from the defensive zone. He certainly won’t be the flashiest of player, but look for him to get good look at the penalty kill for the United States and 3rdpairing minutes. While the United States may not be able to match talent for talent with some of the other clubs, the roster build with Niskanen can certainly look to prevent them from putting the puck in the back of the net.

 

 

Ryan Suter

Age: 31

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 202 lbs

Shoots: Left

Team: Minnesota Wild

 

Between Junior and Senior levels, Ryan Suter has played 77 international games for the United States. He has registered 9 goals and 44 total points. He has certainly proven well to his family legacy as a Suter. Achieved 3 Gold medals (2004 World Juniors, 2002 IIHF World U18, World U-17), 1 Silver Medal (Olympics 2010 Vancouver, where he also served as an Alt Captain). A two-time NHL All-star, 2013 THN Bobby Orr Award (Best Defenseman) and 2013 Norris Trophy Finalist (NHL Best Defenseman). His resume speaks for itself. What more is there to say about this future Hall of Famer and shoo-in for this spot?

 

Always known as more of a ‘set up’ man. Suter in his most recent Olympic Games (2014) played 6 games for the US and notched 3 assists. Suter will likely be used as an excellent go to man on the blue line and log big minutes for the United States in all situations. Coming off a 51 point season, he should be considered a threat any time that he is on the ice.

 

 

 

 

Projected Pairings

(L) Suter    (R) Byf

(L) McD      (R)Carlson

(R) Nisk      (R) E Johnson

 

Res: (L) J Johnson

Team USA Goalie Preview


By Mike Meyer

Staff Writer

 

September 17-October 1st will return the World Cup of Hockey. The tournament will consist players representing their counties from: Canada, United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, and will also feature teams North America (players ages 23 and under), as well as Team Europe, which will consist of players representing the rest of Europe.

 

With the World Cup of Hockey rapidly approaching, it’s time to get to know the USA Goalies.

 

Ben Bishop

29 years old, standing in at a towering 6’7” and currently playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ben Bishop, nicknamed “Big Ben”, was drafted 85thoverall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In 2012, Bishop would ultimately find himself to be the odd man out amongst a crowded goalie cupboard in St. Louis. In 2012, the Blues would feature a goalie lineup featuring Ben Bishop in the AHL, alongside teammates Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington, and NHL goalie tandem, Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. St. Louis opted to trade Bishop to the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline before his 1-year contract expired. Partially due to the NHL Lockout in 2013 and the play of teammate, Craig Anderson, Bishop would only play 23 total games for the Sens (starting 21). Nearly one year later, Bishop would be traded once again. This time, to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since the trade to Tampa Bay, the St. Louis native Ben Bishop has posted a 115-52 record, a 2.24 GAA, and a .922 SV%. Time in Tampa has been good to Ben. Looking forward to the tournament, Bishop should look to build upon his successful 2015-2016 season. Named the All-Time Leader in shutouts for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a Finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the 2016 NHL Second All-Star Team, leader of the NHL with a 2.06 GAA, and an 8-2 record playoff performance in 11 games played and posting a 1.86 GAA, .939 SV%. Like his entire career before him, look for Ben Bishop to not give up the net without a fight. He could very well be an underrated weapon in the upcoming World Cup for the United States.

 

Jonathan Quick

Drafted by the LA Kings in 2007, Jonathan Quick has never known anything else but to be a
King. Olympic Silver medalist in 2010, NHL All-Star, 2x Vezina Trophy Finalist, 2011-12 Conn Smythe Trophy Winner, and 2x Stanley Cup Champion. Jonathan Quick knows how to win. March 14th, 2016 marked one of the few highlights of Quick’s 2015-2016 campaign as he became the all-time leader in shutouts amongst American born goaltenders. Along with his 40-23 record, this would be one of the very few highlights for Quick and the Kings during the season. The Los Angeles Kings were quickly bounced in the 2016 playoffs, as Jonathan Quick went 1-4 with a 3.04 GAA and a .886 save percentage, his poorest NHL postseason performance to date since his rookie campaign in 2009-10. Love him or hate him during the regular season all you want. When it comes time for international play though, this is one goaltender that the United States will be glad to have on their side.

 

Cory Schneider

5 years in Vancouver, a 55-26 record. 3 years in New Jersey a 69-71 record. Cory Schneider has been a star amongst a career of poor rosters and even poorer performance in front of him. A career 270 games played by the 30-year-old Schneider has earned him 124-97 record. Not the most impressive. So why is he on this squad? Cory Schneider throughout those 270 games played has posted a remarkable 2.16 GAA and .925 save percentage. A statistic that makes even the best of us scratch our heads and wonder about that overall record. But wait, there’s more! (queue the spinning Cory Schneider ad) Cory is the only goaltender amongst the 3 with an above .900 save percentage in all situations (even strength, power play, and penalty kill). With the type of lineups hat Cory has had in front of him, one can only wonder what would happen when he is backing the United States’ best.

The United States will have plenty of ways to address their goaltenders in the upcoming tournament. Whether one goaltender starts to falter, Head Coach, John Tortorella will have plenty of quality options to rely upon.