Friday, September 23, 2016

World Cup of Hockey Grades for Eliminated Teams

Shayne Gostisbehere, John Gibson & Jacob Trouba defend the front of the net against Sweden

North America - B - It's tough to give anyone an 'A' who didn't make it to the semis, but the young North American squad was fun to watch and had a lot of fan support. We may never see the likes of these guys playing on the same team again (due to age & two different countries), but their speed and ability to push the puck up the rink in the blink of an eye was nice while it lasted. The OT against Sweden was some of the most exciting hockey we've seen in a while. The loss to Russia is what did them in, but they played well in all 3 games, especially against Finland.

Andrej Sustr, Jakub Voracek & Michael Frolik celebrate a goal against Team USA

Czech Republic – C+ - The Czechs were grouped with Team Europe in the "afterthought" category coming in to this tournament. Finishing with a 1-1-1 record isn't too shabby considering what was expected of them. Canada crushed them, but they played a competitive game against Team Europe, and beat the Americans to close the round robin play. If they had come out on top against Europe in OT instead, they would be getting ready for a semifinal game against Sweden. The Czechs used to be one of the powerhouses of international play. That isn't the case anymore, but there is enough talent there to continue to be a tough competitor in the future.

Aleksander Barkov skates with the puck against Russia
Finland - D That D isn’t for defenseman, and they’re lucky that they didn’t get a failing grade considering they scored one goal in three games. They played Sweden tough in a 2-0 loss, played Russia tough for half of a game, and didn’t get the best outing from Pekka Rinne in their first game against North America. The Finns didn’t play as badly as the next team, but they could certainly use some scoring punch in future international tournaments.

Team USA skates off after the final game after a disappointing performance in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey

F There’s not much else that can be said about Team USA’s dismal performance in the World Cup. Yes, Phil Kessel would have helped the offense. But if John Tortorella was all about toughness and character, Kessel proved Tortorella’s character point on why he and Dean Lombardi didn’t pick him to be on the team with his now infamous tweet from Tuesday night. The fact that both Jack & Erik Johnson made this team on the blueline, but Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Faulk didn’t will always be a head-scratcher. Team USA didn’t play well enough at all to even entertain the idea of them making it past round-robin play. This is the lowest point of USA hockey since the 1998 debacle in the Olympics at Nagano. Maybe the Americans aren’t as close as they thought they were to going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world. They’ll get an injection of youth and offense next time around when some of the Americans on the North American squad move to Team USA, but it is definitely a “back to the drawing board” moment for USA hockey.

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