TORONTO, ONTARIO – The 2016 edition of the World Cup of Hockey officially began play on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre and highlighted signs of things to come for the upcoming National Hockey League (NHL) season.
Teams Canada, Europe, Sweden and North America all posted impressive wins respectively over squads from the Czech Republic, United States, Russia, and Finland.
Presented as a collaborative between the league and the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA), the preseason best-on-best international hockey championship event began at a high pace amongst the eight competing teams.
Teams Canada, Europe, Czech Republic, and USA comprise Group A, while Teams North America, Sweden, Russia, and Finland make up Group B.
The top two finishers in Group A and Group B – following the conclusion of round-robin play – will advance to a single-game semifinal, where the first-place team from each group will face an elimination game against the second-place team from the other group.
Winners of the semifinal games then will advance to a best-of-three final series.
World Cup of Hockey Notes (NHL Public Relations)
Sunday’s results (Home Team in Caps)
Saturday’s results (Home Team in Caps)
Team North America shines in World Cup of Hockey debut
Team North America scored three goals in the second period, including strikes by Johnny Gaudreau and Jonathan Drouin two minutes apart, to cruise past Team Finland in its World Cup of Hockey debut.
Team North America is comprised of a pool of the best young hockey players from Canada and the United States age 23 or younger as of Oct. 1, 2016.
It includes five of the past six No. 1 overall picks in the NHL Draft (Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) as well as the goaltender of the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (Matt Murray).
Three of Team North America’s four scorers were top three draft picks: Jack Eichel (No. 2 in 2015), Drouin (No. 3 in 2013) and MacKinnon (No. 1 in 2013).
The other – Gaudreau – was selected 104th overall in 2011.
Murray made 24 saves, but fell 4:07 shy of the shutout. He registered 15 of Pittsburgh’s 16 playoff wins en route to its Stanley Cup victory in June (2.08 GAA, .923 SV%, 1 SO).
Markstrom, Team Sweden hold off Team Russia’s late rally
Team Sweden scored twice in a 2:11 span of the second period and held off a late rally by Team Russia to pick up a victory in its first game of the tournament.
Jacob Markstrom, who filled in for a sick Henrik Lundqvist, turned aside 27-of-28 shots.
Markstrom won a gold medal with Sweden at the 2013 World Championship and a silver at the 2009 World Juniors, where he was named the best goaltender of the tournament after posting a 1.61 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in five games.
A pair of No. 2 overall selections in the NHL Draft accounted for Team Sweden’s goals: Gabriel Landeskog (2011 by COL) and Victor Hedman (2009 by TBL).
Hedman, along with teammate Anton Stralman, is one of a League-high 12 Tampa Bay Lightning players competing in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Halak, Team Europe stun Team USA in tournament debut
Jaroslav Halak stopped all 35 shots he faced, including 17 in the third period, to guide Team Europe past Team USA in its World Cup of Hockey debut.
Team Europe – a pan-European roster of players from birth countries outside of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden – features players from eight countries: Germany and Slovakia (6 apiece); Switzerland (4); Denmark (3); and Austria, France, Norway and Slovenia (1 apiece).
The combined record of those countries in 17 prior World Cup of Hockey/Canada Cup games was 1-15-1 (West Germany/Germany: 1-9-1, Slovakia: 0-6-0).
Halak, who missed the final month of the 2015-16 NHL season (as well as the playoffs) due to injury, recorded the most saves in a shutout win in World Cup of Hockey history.
The previous high was 29, set by Miikka Kiprusoff of Finland in a 3-0 win over Germany on Sept. 2, 2004, in Cologne, Germany.
Marian Gaborik (Slovakia), Leon Draisaitl (Germany) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (France) accounted for Team Europe’s three goals. Draisaitl’s father, Peter, led Germany with 1-4—5 in four games during the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
Team Canada cruises past Team Czech Republic
The line of Sidney Crosby (1-2—3, +4), Brad Marchand (1-2—3, +3) and Patrice Bergeron (1-0—1, +2) combined for 3-4—7 and a +9 rating to propel Team Canada past Team Czech Republic in its tournament opener.
Carey Price turned aside 27 shots to record the shutout.
He has not allowed a goal in his last 224:19 of international play dating to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, when he backstopped Canada to the gold medal in Sochi, Russia (5-0, 0.59 GAA, .972 SV%, 2 SO).
Team Canada outshot Team Czech Republic, 50-27, the second-most shots on goal by one team in one game in World Cup of Hockey history.
Did you know?
Team USA suffered just its second shutout in World Cup of Hockey/Canada Cup history, snapping a 38-game streak with at least one goal dating to Sept. 9, 1976.
On that day, Vladislav Tretiak and the Soviet Union blanked the United States, 5-0, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pa.
Goal Differentials following Game 1
Group A – Team Canada: +6, Team Europe: +3, Team USA: -3, Team Czech Republic: -6
Group B – Team North America: +3, Team Sweden: +1, Team Russia: -1, Team Finland: -3
Most Shots on Goal by One Team in One Game, World Cup of Hockey History:
56 – Czech Republic, Sept. 3, 2004, at Prague. Czech Republic 7, Germany 2 (RR)
50 – Canada, Sept. 17, 2016, at Toronto. Canada 6, Czech Republic 0 (RR)
48 – Sweden, Aug. 26, 1996, at Stockholm. Sweden 6, Germany 1 (RR)