By: Dan Marotz
Hockey season has come a bit early this year, something many fans are very excited about. For the first time since 2004, the World Cup of Hockey is back. 8 teams (USA, Canada, Finland, Sweden, North America, Europe, Russia, and the Czech Republic) battle to be the best in the hockey world this month This is something that I myself and really excited for and I can’t wait to watch. There have already been pre-tournament games and also a few prelim games. Team USA for instance went 2-1 in the pre-tournament games beating team Canada 4-2 and then losing to Canada 5-2. They finished pre-tournament games with a 3-2 win over team Finland. I’ll give a brief overview of some of the teams and my predictions as to who will be left standing when the World Cup comes to an end October 1st.
As far as the teams go, everyone is stacked as you could imagine. Canada has superstars such as Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos to name a few. USA has Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, and TJ Oshie. However, the team that is possibly gaining the most attention is team North America. This is a team of Canadians and Americans all under the age of 23. If you haven’t seen them play, I highly recommend you do. The sheer speed and talent of this team is unbelievable. Connor McDavid (who some say is the second coming of Wayne Gretzky) is younger than most college aged kids at 19 years old, yet he moves, shoots, and protects the puck like he’s already been in the NHL for 10 years. Team North America is definitely my favorite team to watch, it should be yours too. To be honest I’m more rooting for them than I am the actual USA team because they’re so entertaining to watch. The puck movement from each player is ridiculous and this team really showcases the years of talent to come in the NHL.
Now the predictions. As, some people know, this post is a tad late in that prelim games have already started. In the first group you have Europe, a team consisting of players whose countries don’t have enough players to field their own team, Canada, Czech Republic, and USA. The second group has Sweden, Finland, North America, and Russia. Leading group A is Europe with 2 wins already, then Canada at 1-0, Czech Republic at 0-1-1, and you guessed it, USA dead last at 0-1. I think the reason why USA is struggling in the actual tournament is much like why they struggled in the 2014 Olympics. The problem is for whatever reason; we always like to choose big brawling players over skilled ones. For instance, Phil Kessel is not on the team, in fact he wasn’t even considered. This is a guy that just came off his first Stanley Cup victory and many, including myself thought he should have won the Conn Smythe trophy, not Sidney Crosby. Instead, in his place is a guy like Blake Wheeler. A man who is 6’5” and yes has skill but not that of Kessel. This is a small example but I think this is why USA will lose to Canada tonight and will be ousted from the tournament. As who will come out of the group, I think Canada and Europe will. Yes, I already know Europe already has two wins but my answer would’ve been the same if the tournament started tomorrow. As far as group B goes, I think North America and Russia will come out on top. Last night’s Russia vs. North America game was genuinely one of the most entertaining games I have seen in a long while. Russia ended up winning 4-3 but not before a strong almost comeback by North America from being down 4-1. To me, Sweden and Finland just don’t have that killing power on offense mixed with a strong blue line and solid goaltending. Russia has Sergei Bobrovsky, who basically saved Russia last night, and North America has Matt Murray, a recent Stanley Cup champ as of last June. Sure Sweden and Finland are strong, don’t get me wrong, however I just don’t think they have what it takes to get out of the group stage. Then come the semis of Europe vs. Canada, which I think Canada will win because let’s face it, it’s Canada, no one can rival their star power. North America will avenge last night’s loss by beating Russia in their semi. I think Russia will just have too much trouble dealing with that speed and look for Murray to bounce back from a subpar performance from last night. I believe Canada will win the finals because all that skill and experience (Stanley Cup winners all over the Canada roster) will prove to be too much for the younger less experienced North America. As far as third place goes, I think, and hope, Europe wins. There’s something about Russia outside of Ovi, Datsyuk, and Tarasenko I just can’t stand.
So there you have it, Canada as usual wins the Gold (I hope I’m wrong), North America with Silver, and Europe with the bronze and Russia coming in 4th. If you haven’t checked out any games, I seriously recommend catching any game on ESPN. This is the best hockey the sport has to offer; it would be an absolute shame if you missed out.