Let’s be honest: Team Europe never stood a chance against Team North America. It’s not that the multinational European roster isn’t good. If this were any other opponent, Team Europe might have had an opportunity for success. The team, however, drew Team North America, an absolute juggernaut of a roster. While the level of talent was a major mismatch for the team partially coached by Paul Maurice, both sides actually went a whole period without scoring. When the floodgates opened, however, Team North America buried Team Europe under an avalanche of goals.
The First Period: 0-0
From puck drop, it was clear that Team North America was the better unit. They quickly generated scoring chances and tested Jaroslav Halak early. The top-line unit for North America, consisting of Drouin, McDavid, and Scheifele, looked as good as you might expect. The Kopitar line admirably held its own, but Team Europe’s depth challenges in the bottom-half of the roster began to show as the period wore on.
All that said, the game remained scoreless through the first 20 minutes. Team Europe had Halak to thank for that, as the defense strained to contain the venerable opposing forward corps and offensively-gifted blueline unit. Neither team took any penalties, though both teams threw out several hard checks and drove hard towards the net.
The Second Period: 3-0 Team North America
You had to know it was only a matter of time before Team Europe cracked. On a tripping call by Luca Sbisa, Nate MacKinnon found twine with a beautiful power play goal. Less than 6 minutes later, goals by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Johnny Gaudreau gave North America a commanding 3-0 lead. Team Europe was in scramble mode after that, constantly chasing play and generally looking impotent against a deep, young defensive group. With Matt Murray in net, the challenge only grew for the European squad.
Two European power plays proved fruitless against the North American PK, which isn’t all that surprising. The composite continental team can field skilled PKers like Sean Couturier without sacrificing its top-line players. That mismatch in roster depth continued to plague Team Europe, keeping their offensive opportunities in check as North America surged up and down the ice. Could the European squad find a way to match North America in the third period?
The Third Period: 4-0 Team North America
Spoiler alert: Team Europe didn’t match North America at all. Kopitar and co. put forth a noble effort, but North America’s speedy transition game and loaded offensive line-up continued to carve the European squad. Mark Streit only made his team’s comeback harder when he hauled down MacKinnon, setting up a penalty shot. Against Halak, you can probably guess how that ended (a second goal for the Avs wunderkind). 4-0 North America and it was just about over.
The rest of the period was relatively uneventful. Trochek took a Streit stick to the face but survived. Team Europe also made a few offensive zone pushes but continued to come up empty. Murray answered every shot and cleanly controlled rebounds. His movements in the crease were a little rusty, but nothing got past him.
Jets Everywhere You Go
Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba made their debuts with Team North America. Both looked at home alongside the deepest roster in the tournament. Scheifele fit like a glove with McDavid and even hit a few posts. His release and accuracy should translate to goal-scoring at some point. At the very least, he has remarkable scoring machines on his line in Drouin and McDavid. Towards the end of the game, he was replaced by Saad and bumped down. That’s a downgrade, but MacLellan will do as he wills.
Trouba was a bit more understated, but proved that he belonged on the team with good zone exits and good keeps along the blueline. Jacob showed a few offensive flashes, but wasn’t as active as I expected. He was definitely physical, though, and took the body against numerous opponents. Look for Trouba to break out offensively as the tournament progresses. He has great defensive partners in Gostisbehere and Jones. Hopefully, Trouba shows that offensive touch we’re usually accustomed to.