USA Hockey Tattoos
Bill Jezior, Philadelphia, Pa.
USA Hockey Tattoos
Bill Jezior, Philadelphia, Pa.
Dominik Hasek and Mario Lemieux in 1987.
Dominik Hasek and Mario Lemieux in 1987.
The history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped, so don't worry just yet. Unless you're Team USA.
We're two games into the round robin portion of the World Cup, and we've already seen a handful of upsets, with favorites like Russia and the United States already tasting defeat, and in the case of the Americans, already being eliminated. With one game to go and some of the four playoff spots still up for grabs, fans around the world are no doubt panicking over the games their teams let get away.
But while the round robin is obviously important – you have to make the playoffs to win the whole thing – it's worth remembering that the results of individual games don't necessarily tell us much as much as we might think about what will happen in the playoff rounds.
In fact, the history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped down the line. So in an effort to calm some nerves, here are five times that overreacting to a round robin result would have steered you wrong once the eliminations games began.
1976: Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0
In the first ever round robin game in Canada Cup history, Canada made a statement by crushing Finland 11-2. They went on the beat Sweden and the U.S., and they closed out the round with a win over their arch-rivals from the Soviet Union, winning those three games by a combined score of 11-3.
But in between, they dropped a surprising decision to Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Dzurilla outduelled Rogie Vachon at the Montreal Forum, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. The game was an instant classic, described at the time as one of the best ever played.
The two teams finished at the top of round robin standings, setting up a best-of-three final. But there was no repeat of Dzurilla's heroics – Team Canada blitzed him for four goals in the first period of the opening game, sending him to the bench and paving the way for a lopsided 6-0 win. Game 2 was more entertaining, with Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes in before a Czechoslovakian comeback set the stage for Darryl Sittler's tournament winner in overtime.
1981: Canada 7 – Soviet Union 3
By 1981, the Soviet Union was coming off a relatively rough stretch of international play. They'd won their usual Olympic gold in 1972 and 1976, but been upset by Team USA's Miracle on Ice squad in 1980, lost the 1972 Summit Series, and failed to even make the final of the 1976 Canada Cup.
When they met Canada in 1981 in the final game of the round robin, both teams were undefeated and battling for first place. The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third, but Canada erupted for five straight goals in what ended up being a 7-3 laugher. Even with star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak sitting out due to illness, the result was an embarrassing one for the Soviets.
Both teams won their semifinal game to advance to a one-game winner-take-all final in Montreal. With Tretiak back in goal, most fans expected a closer game. Instead, they got an even bigger blowout. But this time, it was the Soviets who ran up the score, earning an 8-1 win and handing Canada what still stands to this day as its most embarrassing international loss.
1984: Soviet Union 6 – Canada 3
Three years after their impressive win, the Soviets looked even more dominant through the round robin portion of the 1984 tournament. Heading into a final game showdown against a struggling Team Canada, they were sporting a 4-0-0 record and looking to wrap up the tournament's top seed. They went on to smother their rivals in an impressive 6-3 win, finishing the round robin with a perfect record and dropping Canada down to fourth place.
That set up another meeting between the two nations in the tournament semi-final, held just three days later in Calgary. After being held to just 17 shots in the round robin, Canada exploded for 41 in the rematch. But Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin stood on his head, and had his team in position to win with a 2-1 lead late in regulation. It took a late goal by Doug Wilson to set up overtime, where Paul Coffey's lunging breakup of a Soviet 2-on-1 set the stage of Mike Bossy's sudden death winner.
Canada went on to sweep Sweden in the final to claim the tournament. It marked the third straight time that the eventual Canada Cup champion had avenged a round robin loss on the way to their title.
1987: Czechoslovakia 4 – Canada 4; Sweden 5 – Soviet Union 3
The 1987 Canada Cup marked the first time that the eventual champion went undefeated through the round robin. That would be Canada, who beat the Soviets in a three-game classic punctuated by Mario Lemieux's historic winner.
But while Canada didn't have any losses to avenge on their way to the title, they weren't perfect in the round robin. And the first blemish came in their opening game, when a rusty Canadian squad blew a third period lead on their way to a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia. That was a disappointing result against a team that had gone 0-4-1 in the previous tournament, and raised questions as to whether Canada could defend their crown. Meanwhile, the tournament's other favorite had a disappointing opening of their own, as the Soviets gave up three goals in the first eight minutes while dropping a 5-3 decisions to Sweden.
Both powerhouses recovered well, with each winning three straight before facing each other in the round robin finale and skating to a 3-3 draw. That set up a pair of semifinal rematches, with Canada facing Czechoslovakia and the Soviets drawing Sweden.
This time, the favorites took care of business. Canada started slowly but pumped home four straight goals to take a 5-3 final, while the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before eliminating Sweden by a 4-2 score. That set the stage for a final that still stands as perhaps the best international hockey series ever played.
As a side note, the Czechoslovakian goaltender for both of those games against Canada was a 22-year-old kid that most North Americans had never heard of. He eventually made it to the NHL three years later, and turned out to be pretty good. He even got some revenge against Canada at an international tournament over a decade later.
2004: Russia 3 – USA 1; Sweden 4 – Czech Republic 3
Canada didn't have to avenge any round robin losses on their way to the 1991 title, and the United States likewise was a perfect 3-0-0 under the new World Cup format before winning it all in 1996. Canada repeated that feat in 2004, making it four straight Canada/World Cups that have been won by a team that didn't suffer a loss during the round robin. Yes, that's right – it's now been 32 years and counting since a team lost a round robin game and still managed to win this tournament. Wait, this is supposed to be about giving teams that lost in the round robin hope. Forget everything I just mentioned.
But we can still find a couple of revenge games in the 2004 round robin, thanks to that year's, um, interesting format. The tournament featured eight teams, and the playoff round featured… eight teams. Yes, everyone made the playoffs in 2004, with the round robin settling the seeding and nothing else.
That format actually gave us a few interesting moments, like top-seeded Finland needing a goal in the dying minutes to edge winless Germany 2-1. And it also set up a pair of interesting rematches. In the round robin, the defending champion Team USA had dropped its first two games, to Canada and Russia. In the latter game, they fell 3-1 while being outshot 45-21. The 0-2 start didn't hurt their playoff hopes, because of the whole "everyone makes it" thing, but it certainly put a dent in their confidence.
Meanwhile, the Czechs dropped their opener 4-0 to Finland, then fell behind by the same score to Sweden. They came back to at least make that game a respectable 4-3 final, but other than running up the score on Germany in the finale, they didn't come out of the round robin with much room for optimism.
But in the opening round, both teams got a chance at payback, and both took it. The Czechs looked like a different team, shelling Mikael Tellqvist and Team Sweden in a 6-1 win. The Russia/Team USA rematch was a closer affair, with both teams going back and forth, but the Americans held on for a 5-3 win.
Both teams went on to lose in the semifinal, although the U.S. blew a late lead against Finland and the Czechs took Canada to overtime. Canada beat Finland in the one-game final, the year-long NHL lockout began the next day, and the World Cup hasn't been seen since. Twelve years later, we're finally getting another look at the tournament, and another chance to see a tough round robin loss avenged in the playoffs.
At least, that's what teams like Russia, Finland and North America are hoping.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
The Hurricanes are going in the right direction, but unless their youngsters step up and they get better goaltending, the playoffs are out of the question this year.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN's Prediction: 7th in Metro
Stanley Cup odds: 68-1
Key additions: Lee Stempniak, RW; Teuvo Teravainen, LW; Bryan Bickell, LW; Viktor Stalberg, LW
Key departures: James Wisniewski, D; Riley Nash, C; Nathan Gerbe, LW; Brad Malone, C
-Can the young defense keep it together? The Hurricanes found their form once rookie blueliners Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin took on bigger roles last year, and they’ll need to continue their ascent if Carolina has any shot at the playoffs. Justin Faulk is still the main man on the back end, but all the Hurricanes’ young defensemen have a coach in Bill Peters who believes in them. They already played without a safety net once, so they’re bound to improve. Will there be hiccups along the way? For sure. But the Canes have more work to do up front, so the defense can grow organically without worrying about hurting the result.
-Does Cam Ward have anything left? Although he showed glimpses of his old self in 2015-16, Ward, 32, also got beat up on the scoreboard just as often, if not more. Taking a big pay cut may put his mindset in the right perspective, but there likely won’t be another NHL contract in Carolina for the veteran goaltender once his new two-year pact expires. If anything, he becomes a solid mentor once Alex Nedeljkovic gets a chance to see his first action in an NHL arena.
-Who will step up at center? Jordan Staal and Victor Rask are pencilled in, but the Hurricanes need a youngster to step up, too. Teuvo Teravainen, Elias Lindholm and Sebastian Aho have all played center and wing in their careers, so none can be considered a true NHL pivot just yet. Lindholm must get stronger first, while Aho hasn’t played a shift in the league, so give the inside track to Teravainen. He cut his teeth in Chicago and has the Stanley Cup ring (and scoring heroics) to prove his worth. If none works out, there’s always the 2017 draft class to check out.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
From a statistical perspective, the Carolina Hurricanes are a very interesting team. Last season they finished 11th in score-and-venue adjusted Corsi with a mark of 51.4 percent, and 29th in PDO at 98.3.
Some people are optimistic about Carolina’s chances because of those numbers. The first suggests they do a good job at controlling play, a genuine sign of talent and potential future success, while the second suggests they were a bit unlucky in converting that territorial advantage into results.
While that may be true, it’s likely that the Hurricanes are one of the few exceptions to the rule. One look at their roster and you’ll see why, as this team is pretty low on scoring talent and goaltending ability.
In net is the biggest area of concern as the team inexplicably re-signed Cam Ward, whose .915 save percentabe ranks 49th of 52 goalies who have played 2,500 or more minutes over the last three seasons. That’s not good, and one of the biggest reasons the team has consistently low PDO.
Up front isn’t much better. Over the last three seasons, Carolina has been below seven percent shooting in each season. Their last three seasons rank 77th, 88th and 81st overall respectively. Other than Jeff Skinner, there really isn’t a pure goal scorer on this team and while shot volume is great, the puck needs to go in once in a while.
Only six players on the team have an above average shooting percentage relative to their position. Two of them, Lee Stempniak and Bryan Bickell, are new additions interestingly enough.
There’s some reason for optimism though. The aforementioned Skinner is still young, as are Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, and Sebastian Aho, three kids with offensive potential ready to blossom. Newly acquired Teuvo Teravainen should greatly help the cause too.
The D is stock full of potential too with fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin as well as last season’s breakout defensive stalwart Jaccob Slavin. With the underrated Justin Faulk as the No. 1, and the young guys ready to step up, the D-corps should be very strong for years to come.
It’ll take time for this team to become one of the East’s best, but they’re on the right path. This year looks to be another difficult one unless the goaltending situation gets figured out, or the team solves it’s scoring woes. They’ve got a solid process down, it’s time to turn it into results.
Up next: Minnesota Wild
Previously: Toronto Maple Leafs | Edmonton Oilers | Vancouver Canucks | Columbus Blue Jackets | Calgary Flames | Winnipeg Jets | Arizona Coyotes | Buffalo Sabres | Montreal Canadiens | Colorado Avalanche | New Jersey Devils | Ottawa Senators
Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton.
Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton.
Sidney Crosby dominated Canada's first game at the 2016 World Cup, just like he dominated the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. Is this is the best version of Sid yet?
TORONTO – I'll try to keep the hyperbole at a minimum here, but when it comes to Sidney Crosby, one of the greatest hockey players of all-time, it's difficult to avoid.
So I won't say the hockey world left Crosby for dead last December. But considering the lofty standard he's set for himself throughout his career, he experienced perhaps his own equivalent of being left for dead. He had two goals and 11 points after 20 games. He was struggling through a season so miserable he even wrote this summer about how badly he never wanted to experience that feeling again. The idea of him climbing back into the NHL scoring race and reclaiming his unofficial title of World's Best Hockey Player seemed far fetched. The sport belonged to Patrick Kane or, the year before, Carey Price. And there was nothing wrong with that. Crosby was a decade into a Hall of Fame career, he was nearing the end of his 20s, and it was possible he was merely exiting his prime a bit earlier than expected.
The Crosby-is-finished hype looks laughable now in hindsight. From the moment the Penguins fired coach Mike Johnston and promoted Mike Sullivan from their AHL affiliate, Crosby ignited. Sullivan helped free him up to play his north-south game at breakneck speed. Crosby's 66 points in 52 games over the rest of the season led the NHL. He was the league's best player in the playoffs and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as second-season MVP. His days of lapping the scoring field with 120-point seasons were over, but the new Crosby was an evolved version, dominant in every aspect of the game, from faceoffs to lower-body strength to puck protection to advanced statistics to his good, ole-fashioned laser of a backhander. Like Steve Yzerman midway through his career, Crosby enjoyed a renaissance of sorts as a more complete specimen.
After watching Crosby skate circles around the Czechs in Canada's first round-robin game at the World Cup Saturday, it's time to wonder if Crosby, already the best player of this generation, is getting better. His chemistry with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand is excellent. He showed a sixth sense when he fed Joe Thornton all alone in the slot for Canada's fourth goal. He looked flawless out there.
"I think he's always been the best player in the world," said defenseman Brent Burns, Crosby's Stanley Cup final foe with the San Jose Sharks, now his teammate with Canada. "What makes him that is he works every day at it. He's always striving to get better, to be the best and stay up on that plateau, I think there are a lot of guys chasing him, and that pushes him to get better."
Now's the time when angry Flyers fans, er, blog commenters, strike back against the so-called insufferable Crosby love. But to do so at this point is to merely be a contrarian, to be a hater of greatness. Instead of fighting it, just stop and appreciate it. It wasn't hyperbolic to praise Wayne Gretzky's brilliance, nor Bobby Orr's, nor Mario Lemieux's, nor Patrick Roy's. And Crosby is approaching a similar stratosphere. He has two scoring titles, two MVPs, two Stanley Cups, a Rocket Richard, two Olympic gold medals, two Olympic game-winning goals, a World Championship and the highest points per game of any NHLer in history not named Gretzky, Orr, Lemieux or Bossy. If he keeps playing like he did to open the World Cup, he'll add one more impressive team trophy to the case. Canada coach Mike Babcock isn't yet ready to concede that Crosby has reached a new level, though.
"Let's not get carried way," Babcock said. "He was the star in Sochi. He was the star in Vancouver. What you saw tonight, though, is he got the points. Everyone likes to get points, Sid likes to get points, too, but it took the team to win, and he was the leader. Were in the process here, and as the team gets better, he has to get better. But it was a good start for his line."
And maybe why Crosby keeps improving is because he adopts that same mindset. He's never satisfied. Neither were any of the sport's all-time greats.
"There are still things we can improve on, but to get rewarded for our hard work, and get a couple on the power play, and get some big kills early on, all those little things go a long way," he told reporters after the game.
And that line is Crosby in a nutshell, isn't it? The man accomplishing the big things on the big stage is the one obsessed with the little things.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin
Canada got a scare from the Russians and trailed for the second time in the entire tournament, but Brad Marchand’s pair of goals helped put Canada ahead for good.
It was looking a little dicey for Canada for awhile. Even though the master plan was in full effect – control the play and bombard Russia with shots – netminder Sergei Bobrovsky was playing Superman in the other crease. But good things tend to happen when Canada follows the plan and eventually Bobrovsky could hold the fort no longer. In the end, Canada got the 5-3 score that reflected the imbalance on the ice and now the Canucks move on to the World Cup final.
It's actually quite incredible that Russia led the game 2-1 at one point in the second. After Sidney Crosby opened the scoring with a tremendous strip and deke in the first, Russia repaid Bobrovsky for his heroics in the second. A bad Jay Bouwmeester pinch led to a 2-on-1 and a Nikita Kucherov snipe, which was followed by Evgeny Kuznetsov cashing in on a nice charge by Ivan Telegin.
But Crosby came to Canada's rescue again, hawking another puck in the offensive zone and slinging it to a wide-open Brad Marchand, who made no mistake at the side of the net.
The dam finally broke in the third, with Marchand slipping a wrister past Bobrovsky, followed by strikes by Corey Perry and John Tavares. Canada outshot Russia brutally throughout the contest and the possession numbers were similarly one-sided, as one would presume. Despite Bobrovsky's all-world play (a quick recap: he stoned Tavares on two point-blank shots, outwaited Steven Stamkos on a goal-mouth sojourn and stopped a streaking Marchand tip, among many other feats), Canada got the result it deserved.
Alex Ovechkin was practically invisible thanks to Shea Weber and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Canada's excellent defensive forwards made up for some shaky play by blueliners Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo.
So now the Red and White Killing Machine moves on, to face either Sweden or Europe. Canada got a nice challenge from Russia, at least for part of the game, and now the gold is in sight. If everybody sticks to the plan, as per usual, Canada will be very hard to beat once in the final, let alone twice.
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