The exhibition games are over and the World Cup of Hockey is underway in earnest.
Team Canada, strong favourites in the World Cup of Hockey, are arguably in a “Golden Age” in terms of the players the country is churning out year after year. “B team” fantasy rosters built for a second Team Canada — on paper — look like they could medal comfortably in this tournament (as well as the past two Olympics). They’ve got unrivalled depth — even despite injuries to Jeff Carter, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Duncan Keith; all legitimate top line/pair talents in the NHL — and the consensus best goaltender in the world between the pipes in Carey Price.
New for a best-on-best Team Canada roster based on WCH pre-tournament play: The right fit for Sidney Crosby, who has found chemistry with his two wingers. There were some eyebrows raised about left winger Brad Marchand’s inclusion on the team and subsequent placement on the top line in mock lineups, but he’s gelled well with Crosby, who can be a difficult player to find the right wingers for (as seen in past Olympics). Marchand’s relentless forecheck, ability to pivot on a dime, jump in and out of holes, and cover ice quickly — as well as his vision, aggressiveness, and play with and without the puck — have made him a strong complement to Crosby.
On the right-wing of their line is Patrice Bergeron (aka: “Mr. Perfect”), who still ranks as arguably the best two-way centerman in the league. Bergeron’s ability to slide over to an unnatural position — the wing — and take on a lot of the defensive responsibilities that would normally be on Crosby’s shoulders has freed up “Sid” to play a more aggressive offensive game with Marchand. It’s fair to say that trio dominated the pre-tournament games.
On defence, there are a few small question marks for Canada. There was much made about “lefties and righties” — the correct handedness of defencemen on each defence pairing — including some well-placed outrage over the exclusion of players such as PK Subban and Mark Giordano. Canada is now in a situation where Alex Pietrangelo is playing on his off-side, and — by most observers’ accounts — struggling over on the left. An early injury to Duncan Keith has thrown somewhat of a wrench in the coaching staff’s best laid plans of having properly handed players on both sides of the ice.
— dom 💛 nashville 🤠 (@domluszczyszyn) September 16, 2016
Somewhat of an afterthought in this tournament, Team Czech Republic has held its own in exhibition play, splitting a pair of games with Team Russia and beating Team North America despite a late push from the young guns. They don’t measure up with Canada at any position, but it’s never wise to look past an opponent; with short tournaments, there is always the possibility that a lucky bounce and a hot goalie could upset a favourite.
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Team Canada Projected Lineup
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Brad Marchand||Sidney Crosby||Patrice Bergeron|
|John Tavares||Ryan Getzlaf||Steven Stamkos|
|Logan Couture||Jonathan Toews||Corey Perry|
|Joe Thornton||Ryan O'Reilly||Matt Duchene|
|Left Defence||Right Defence|
|Alex Pietrangelo||Brent Burns|
|Marc-Edward Vlasic||Shea Weber|
|Jay Boumeester||Drew Doughty|
Team Czech Republic Projected Lineup
|Jakub Voracek||Tomas Plekanec||Milan Michalek|
|David Pastrnak||Martin Hanzal||Ondrej Palat|
|Ales Hemsky||Radek Faksa||Michael Frolik|
|Dmitrij Jaskin||Roman Cervenka||Michal Birner|
|Andrej Sustr||Jakub Nakladal|
|Roman Polak||Michal Kempny|
|Michal Jordan||Zbynek Michalek|