It sure didn’t seem like an exhibition game as Team Canada faced off against Team USA Friday night in Columbus. There were so many spectacular saves, goals momentum swings, and scrums that it felt like a championship game.
Each team played to their strengths. For Team Canada, it was all about speed in transition, puck possession and plenty of shots. This was evident in the first period, as team Canada managed to out shoot Team USA 10-1 at one point. For Team USA the strategy consisted of physicality, grit and solid defense.
Team Canada did succeed in out shooting their opponent 43-25 throughout the game. But in the end it was Team USA’s grit and physicality that propelled them to a 4-2 victory. Team USA outhit the Canadians 29-26, never giving their opponents a moment without pressure. Forward Brandon Dubinsky and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien ended the game with a combined total of eight hits. This intense fore-checking style frustrated the Canadian’s. Two quick goals, courtesy of Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski late in the first period and some exceptional goaltending from Jonathan Quick helped stun the Canadians.
Team Canada tried to mount a comeback through goals from defenseman Drew Doughty and forward Patrice Bergeron. But the battle-hardened defense of Team USA, energy from the home crowd and an empty net goal from forward Derek Stephan proved to be too much even for Team Canada.
One of the major points of discussion going into this game was the return of goaltender Carey Price. Price has not played a game since November and many thought that he shouldn’t even risk playing in the World Cup of Hockey. However, Price chose to play and his first opponent is none other than Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Quick. These are two of the best goalies in the world and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
Even though Carey Price lost his first game, he very well, considering he hasn’t played since November. He ended the game with 24 saves on 21 shots and a .875 save percentage. Jonathan Quick had a lot more work to do to claim this victory. Quick was peppered with shots all game long, ending the game with 32 saves a .970 save percentage. Backup goalie Ben Bishop came on in relief of Jonathan Quick for the third period to help seal the victory for Team USA.
Another major statistic and probably the most surprising one, is both team’s inability to score on the powerplay. Team Canada went 0-3 in the game while Team USA went 0-4. This is something both team’s will want to change before the tournament begins. Team Canada did get the zone time they wanted but weren’t able to penetrate Team USA’s defense or Jonathan Quick. Team USA ended the game with 23 blocked shots.
Both teams will be battered and bruised heading into tomorrow’s game and both team’s will have to make changes. However, in the end this was a fantastic display of hockey from some of the best players in the world. It will be interesting to see what kind of changes Team Canada Head Coach Mike Babcock has in store to counteract Team USA’s physicality.