Today is the final day of exhibition games for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. After a week of games to get the players ready, we’ll see three final showdowns today and then get two days of rest before the tournament begins.
Game 1: Team Czech Republic vs. Team North America
3:30PM ET - CONSOL Energy Centre, Pittsburgh, PA
ESPN3, SN, SN1, TVA Sports, Watch ESPN, Game Centre Live
The afternoon game today is North America’s final exhibition game and their first chance to play someone other than Europe. However that team is the Czech Republic, a once great hockey power who, in my mind, is slowly sliding down to the Switzerland/Slovakia level where you should presume they're a top 6 international power, but they could be there.
I’d say today’s game will be closer than expected from TNA, a one or two goal game, and the real challenges await the kids in group play, when they’ll have to face Sweden, Russia, and Finland.
Game 2: Team Sweden vs. Team Europe
7:00PM ET - Verizon Centre, Washington, DC
ESPN3, SN360, TVA Sports 2, Watch ESPN, Game Centre Live
Sweden gets a lighter challenge for their final game before the action starts on Saturday. Europe hasn’t been the greatest team out there, and now they face an older challenge in Sweden. Experience levels are more equal here, and if Europe couldn’t hold it’s own against the children of the best continent, I’m not sure how they’ll do against multiple Olympic gold medal winners who have played together for years.
I predict another rough time for Europe, with a minimum three goal differential.
Game 3: Team Canada vs Team Russia
7:30PM ET - CONSOL Energy Centre, Pittsburgh, PA
ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports, Watch ESPN, Game Centre Live
Canada hasn’t had anything easy in the pre-season, splitting a pair of games with the Americans. Russia is a great team, but split their games against the Czechs, one going to a shoot out.
This is the game to watch tonight if you want a competition, and don’t expect any fight level change here. Russia always wants to prove it’s dominance, and Canada is ready to match whatever level of intensity the Russians bring.
I’ll update the above with potential line combos as they come in.
So how did the teams fare so far in the pre-season?
Canada: 1W vs USA (5-2), 1L vs USA (2-4)
USA: 1W vs Canada (4-2), 1W vs Finland (3-2), 1L vs Canada (2-5)
Russia: 1W vs Czech Republic (4-3), 1SOL vs Czech Republic (2-3)
Sweden: 1W vs Finland (6-3), 1OTL vs Finland (2-3)
Finland: 1OTW vs Sweden (3-2), 1L vs Sweden (3-6), 1L vs USA (2-3)
Czech Republic: 1SOW vs Russia (3-2), 1L vs Russia (3-4)
North America: 2W vs Europe (4-0, 7-4)
Europe: 2L vs North America (0-4, 4-7)
North America has the largest goal differential with +7 and was the only team to win all of it’s games so far. Canada and the USA are more closely matched by the scores than they are by their play, and if we get to see a Sweden/Finland final somehow, everyone should duck and cover.