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World Cup

Team Canada dominant in most key areas

Goaltending, puck control, special teams strengths entering World Cup

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

Even with Canada's younger players competing for Team North America, Team Canada has the most dominant lineup in the World Cup of Hockey 2016. It is a challenge to find even a single statistic that it's not at the top among the eight teams that will compete in the tournament at Air Canada Centre in Toronto from Sept. 17-Oct.1.

Despite Team Canada's strength, there's no need to start engraving the trophies; the World Cup format gives every team a good chance to win. Even a hypothetical team with a 70 percent chance of winning any given game has a 57 percent chance of being eliminated in the round-robin, the semifinals or the best-of-3 final series. 

That makes it essential to have consistent goaltending, to control the puck and to execute on special teams, all of which are trademarks of Canada in international play.

Consistent goaltending

One bad game, or even one bad goal, could be enough to eliminate any team from this tournament. That's why Team Canada's greatest asset might be the consistency of its goaltending.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm3: Holtby slides over to stone Fehr

Over the past three seasons, nine NHL goalies have had quality starts in at least 60 percent of their games (minimum 50 starts), and three of them are on the Team Canada roster. 

Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks) leads the League with a quality start percentage of 63.7, according to Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens) is third at 62.0, and Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals) ranks eighth at 60.7 percent.

More shots than its opponents

Even with consistent goaltending, it makes sense for Team Canada to place an emphasis on limiting the opposition's scoring chances while taking as many shots of its own as possible. Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings) won the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL in 2015-16 in large part because of his ability to do just that, and do it against the top opponents in the League.

Video: LAK@NSH: Doughty's shot deflects in off Josi

At even strength, the Kings out-attempted their opponents 1,778 to 1,241 when Doughty was on the ice last season for an SAT of plus-537. That's the highest figure in the six seasons for which the data is available on

Because of its close relationship with puck possession, this metric may have played a key role in Team Canada's roster selection. Twenty of the 27 NHL players with a combined SAT of at least plus-600 during the past three seasons are Canadian, and 11 of them were selected for the World Cup. That includes Doughty, who leads the League with a plus-1,367 during that span.

No clear edge on man-advantage

If there is one statistical area where Team Canada isn't a clear favorite, it's the power play.

Going back three seasons, the top 10 individual leaders in NHL power-play scoring are spread out rather evenly between Team Canada, Team Russia, Team Sweden and Team USA.

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm3: Crosby tallies PPG on Malkin's feed

The two key players for Team Canada are Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers) and Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins). With 101 power-play points over the past three seasons, Giroux ranks second behind Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals and Team Sweden (107). Crosby's 93 points are fourth behind Capitals and Team Russia forward Alex Ovechkin (97).

Shorthanded savvy

With the deepest roster of effective penalty-killers in the tournament, Team Canada may have the overall edge on special teams. 

Among the players to watch are Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) and Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks), who have won the Selke Trophy in four of the past five seasons.

Video: ARI@CHI: Toews breaks away to net beautiful SHG

As two of the League's best at faceoffs, Bergeron and Toews can kill precious seconds after every draw. During the past five seasons, they have won a combined 58.7 percent of their 15,048 faceoffs in all manpower situations. 
Toews, Bergeron and Brad Marchand (Bruins) also will pose an offensive threat when Team Canada is down a man. Toews leads the League with 21 shorthanded points over the past five seasons, and Marchand is tied with Adam Henrique (New Jersey Devils) for second with 19. Bergeron is tied for eighth with 13.

The key defenseman to the Team Canada PK will be Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues), who leads the NHL with a total of 1,156:21 of shorthanded ice time over the past five seasons.

Scoring specialist

Team Canada primarily is comprised of two-way players who are accustomed to taking on top opponents at each end of the ice. But at least one selection was made mostly for his offensive talents: John Tavares (New York Islanders).

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm1: Tavares fires home Okposo's feed

At even strength during the past three seasons, Tavares has lined up for 1,312 faceoffs in the offensive zone and 694 in the defensive zone, a zone start percentage of 65.4 percent. That ranks eighth in the League during that time span (minimum 20 games).

Tavares is one of six NHL players to score at least 350 points during the past five seasons behind Giroux (367), Crosby (366), Patrick Kane (360), Ovechkin (352) and Benn (351).

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