TEAM USA vs. TEAM EUROPE
Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
What's at stake: Because of the format, each team needs to get off to a good start in the opening game of the tournament. Team USA especially needs a win to bolster its hopes of a long run in the tournament. It's a little different for Team Europe, which has players from eight countries and is still figuring out exactly what it's going to be. Taking a step in that direction against tough competition will be crucial
Team USA: The pressure is on. Team USA needs a win, especially with Team Canada up next on Tuesday. A loss would be a serious disappointment for a team that has aspirations of winning the tournament. "We have a lot to prove," forward Max Pacioretty said. "We haven't had the results internationally that we'd like to have the last couple of tries. Canada has a target on its back. They're the team that on paper is the measuring stick for everyone. But we have a lot to prove and that's that we play a certain way. We feel that USA Hockey is a different type of mold than anywhere else in the world; blue collar, bring your lunch pail and make life difficult for your opponent. That's what we're going for." Proving that against Team Europe would be an important first step. Jonathan Quick, who started two of the three pretournament games and looked sharp, will be in goal.
Team Europe: It's time to see what exactly this composite team is. It looked old and slow in two pretournament losses to a speedy Team North America, then defeated Team Sweden 6-2 on Wednesday in its final pretournament game, scoring six goals against an excellent defense and getting 34 saves from Jaroslav Halak, who earned No. 1 goaltending job. "We're trying to build an identity in the last couple games, and we have to keep doing that," defenseman Roman Josi said. "I think our game got better in those three games. We played a lot better in the third game. The first game we were kind of all over the place. It's a lot of fun seeing that progress."
Keep your eye on: Team Europe forward Leon Draisaitl. After coach Ralph Krueger cut down Draisaitl's ice time in the second pretournament game, the 20-year-old German responded with a hat trick against Team Sweden, including a pretty goal off the rush on which he beat defenseman Mattias Ekholm before flipping the puck past Henrik Lundqvist.
They said it: "For me personally, just kind of being through the whole 2010 Olympics and 2014 and coming up short there, we know that, hey, it's time right now to get the job done. Who knows how many opportunities there will be for a lot of us in the future to play for Team USA. This group's probably at its peak right now, this group that's been together for the last six years. We want to make sure it's our time to get it done." - Patrick Kane, Team USA forward