Russia showed up with their tournament lives on the line, while the United States crawled to an embarrassing finish at the World Cup of Hockey.
Russia 3, Finland 0
Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Telegin scored just 1:19 apart in the second period, and Evgeni Malkin’s third period goal sealed the 3-0 win for Russia, who officially advanced to the semifinals and eliminated North America.
Finland controlled possession in the first period, but couldn’t translate that into an edge in shots on goal. Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky only had to make six saves in the game’s first 20 periods, as Finland lulled Russia into a slow-paced game.
Russia found their game in the second period, and capitalized on two Finnish turnovers. Early in the second period, Sami Vatanen attempted to clear the zone, but the puck bounced off of the high glass directly to Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko passed to Alex Ovechkin, who found Tarasenko wide open crashing the net for the give-and-go, and the game’s opening goal.
A strong forecheck led to a Russian goal just over a minute later. Ivan Telegin and Evgeny Dadonov pressured the Finns below the goal line. The puck eventually settled on Vadim Shipachev’s stick, and Shipachev found Telegin in alone in front of Tuuka Rask, as Telegin doubled Russia’s lead with a great move in front.
Finland failed to generate much of a push, and Evgeni Malkin effectively buried the game just over three-and-a-half minutes into the period, snapping a shot short shide past Tuukka Rask on a three-on-two odd man rush. Russia took a 3-0 lead, and with Finland already eliminated regardless of the result, the scoreline held.
How much of a bummer is it that North America is eliminated?
A massive one. In just about every qualitative and quantitative measure, North America was the tournament’s most exciting team, showing fans what hockey can look like at its youngest, fastest, and most skilled.
Given how badly the United States flamed out and where Canadian stars like Connor McDavid will sit in the league’s hierarchy (hint: very high) at the next World Cup of Hockey, there’s a chance we won’t see North America at another World Cup, and will never see one at an Olympics or World Championships.
When the tournament was first announced, I was admittedly pretty cynical about seeing a North American under-23 team. But, the roster and the manifestation of that roster on the ice proved me wrong, and I hope we see this become a regular entrant at future World Cups. If we don’t, the team hopefully opened enough eyes in USA Hockey and Hockey Canada to not be afraid to go younger in future best-on-best tournaments.
We may not see anything like this team again, but a week of hockey they’ve given us.
Czech Republic 1, United States 1
The United States started off listlessly, and the Czech Republic took advantage. Zbynek Michalek’s seeing-eye shot found its way past Ben Bishop with Martin Hanzal providing a screen 12:43 into the first period.
Unlike they had all tournament, the Americans responded. 1:45 later, Joe Pavelski tied the game on the power play with his first goal of the tournament off of a nice feed from Zach Parise.
The Czechs regained the lead 6:03 into the second period. Ben Bishop saved an innocent shot from the point, but with Milan Michalek bearing down on him, Ryan Suter couldn’t contain the rebound, and pushed the puck into his own net. If there’s a better metaphor for the American performance in this tournament and in its roster construction, I’ve yet to find it, and the Czechs took a 2-1 lead.
8:10 later, the Americans tied the game again. The much-maligned Justin Abdelkader tapped Dustin Byfuglien’s backdoor pass past Petr Mrazek, proving once and for all that grit trumps skill. But the tie would not last long.
Milan Michalek and Andrej Sustr scored 39 seconds apart on back-to-back shots, and the Czechs took a two-goal lead going into the third period, leading to Cory Schneider seeing his first action of the tournament.
Ryan McDonagh added a shorthanded goal in the third period, and the United States pushed for a tying goal, but could not score on Petr Mrazek, as the Americans finish the tournament winless.
How to Double Down on bad decisions, starring John Tortorella and Dean Lombardi
Lombardi says US couldn't match Canada's skill and talent level, so he tried to win another way.— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) September 22, 2016
USA GM Lombardi: "Our game allows emotion, competitiveness, caring about each other to close (talent) gap more than in any other sport"— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 22, 2016
Tortorella: "I’m not going to let people tell me this team was a bunch of grinders, because it’s not true."— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) September 22, 2016
Abdelkader played in top six.
Joonas Donskoi (F, Finland)
12:28 TOI, 2 SOG, 47.80 score-and-venue adjusted 5v5 CF% (+2% relative to his team), 53.47 score-and-venue adjusted 5v5 FF% (+6.68% relative) in 3-0 loss to Russia.
Joe Pavelski (F, United States)
Power play goal, 15:19 TOI, 4 SOG, 58.87 score-and-venue adjusted 5v5 CF%, 47.31 score-and-venue adjusted 5v5 FF% in 4-3 loss to Czech Republic.
Fear the Fin Three Stars
- Alex Ovechkin (F, Russia): 1 assist in 3-0 win over Finland.
- Sergei Bobrovsky (G, Russia): 21 saves in shutout win over Finland.
- Corey Schneider (G, USA): 7 saves on 7 shots in 4-3 loss to Czech Republic, and, let’s face it, should’ve played the whole tournament for the United States.
What’s up next?
Russia and Canada face off in the first semifinal Saturday at 4 PM PST on ESPN2. Sweden and Europe play in the second semifinal Sunday at 10 AM PST on ESPN.