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World Cup

Five takeaways from World Cup

Carey Price's return from injury, Team Canada's dominance top highlights

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TORONTO -- Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world, but if we've been paying attention and honest in our objectivity, we already knew that.

What we didn't know was how goaltender Carey Price would respond after being off for 10 months or if Team Canada would again prove itself as the best in a best-on-best tournament. 

There were more things we learned in the World Cup of Hockey 2016. Here are five takeaways following Team Canada's 6-0 run to the championship, capped by its come-from-behind 2-1 win against Team Europe on Thursday.

 

1. Price is his old self

Any lingering questions the Montreal Canadiens might have had about the health of their No. 1 goaltender were answered in the World Cup. He was back to his old dominant self, helping Team Canada to the championship.

Price finished the tournament with a 5-0-0 record, a .957 save percentage and 1.40 goals-against average. He allowed seven goals on 163 shots in his first action since Nov. 25, when he played his last game of the 2015-16 season with the Canadiens because of an MCL sprain.

None of this came as a surprise to Team Canada coach Mike Babcock, who also had Price in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he dominated by allowing three goals in five games to help Canada win its second straight Olympic gold medal.

Babcock, in fact, said the only thing that surprised him about Price was how he struggled in Team Canada's first pretournament game, a 4-2 loss to Team USA. Price allowed three goals on 24 shots in that game. He rediscovered his form in Team Canada's last pretournament game, a 3-2 win against Team Russia, and then rolled through the tournament with relative ease.

"He gives our group confidence and an aura of calm like no one I have been around," Babcock said.

 

2. Canada is just too dominant

Has Canada's dominance in these best-on-best tournaments reached the point where it's unfair to everyone else? It'd be hard to argue against that now.

Team Canada rolled through the World Cup, outscoring the opposition 24-8 in six games to win its third consecutive best-on-best tournament.

This makes it two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup championship in three tournaments under Babcock, whose teams have won 16 consecutive games. Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber have played in all of them.

It's hard to see Canada's run of dominance stopping now wherever the next tournament takes place, be it the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics or a future World Cup. Canada's depth is too great and its future is bright, too. Team North America featured 13 Canadians on its roster, including Connor McDavid, who should be the next great Canadian hockey star, if he isn't already.

It's hard to see any country, be it the United States, Sweden or Russia, catching up to Canada's dominance in the near future.

 

3. Speed and skill win these tournaments

Team Canada brought a roster filled with speed and skill to Toronto. It won the World Cup going away. This is not a coincidence.

To win these best-on-best tournaments you need to bring a roster filled with speed and skill and unleash it, while also understanding the need to keep defensive principles intact.

Team North America played too risky and got burned, but if it were allowed a more experienced defense, it might have competed with Team Canada for the title because it played fast and let its skill shine.

The same can't be said for Team USA, Team Sweden and Team Russia.

Team USA left some of its most skilled players at home in an effort to build a team that could grind the game down and defeat Team Canada. It failed.

Team Sweden tried to play a patient game instead of allowing its mobile defensemen to be active and create scoring chances. It wound up being too slow and couldn't generate enough offense.

Team Russia wanted to play a skilled game, but it didn't play its best players enough. Alex Ovechkin scored one goal.

On the other hand, Team Canada played fast and aggressively. Babcock gave freedom to his skilled players to play their game, and they responded by being sound defensively as well. The defensemen got up in the play at the right times, and forced turnovers that led to scoring chances.

Yes, Team Canada had the best roster here, but it worked because it played a style suited to win a best-on-best tournament.

 

4. Matthews is for real and the future is bright for USA Hockey

Team USA had a dismal showing, and it's easy to look at it as a step back for USA Hockey. Maybe it was, but only for the current generation of stars such as Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Suter and Jonathan Quick.

A look at Team North America is proof USA Hockey will be in good shape going forward, regardless of how many players from the current generation play in the next best-on-best tournament, whenever that is.

Johnny Gaudreau and Shayne Gostisbehere each had four points, tying for the lead on Team North America. Auston Matthews scored two goals and was generally dominant on many of his shifts. Vincent Trocheck had a big goal against Team Sweden. Jack Eichel, Brandon Saad and Seth Jones also had their moments. John Gibson made 41 saves on 44 shots in two appearances.

Team USA might have gotten swept, but the tournament wasn't a total loss for USA Hockey. It got a glimpse of the future, and it looks good.

 

5. Team Europe concept worked

It's unclear at this point if the NHL and NHLPA will bring it back at the next World Cup, whenever that may be, but the concept of creating a Team Europe for this tournament can only be seen as a success.

The players bought in quickly because for many it represented their best chance to compete and win in a best-on-best tournament. Frans Nielsen, from Denmark, said this tournament was his version of the Olympics because his country has never competed in the Olympics.

The coach, Ralph Krueger, was a hit because of his ability to mesh his obvious coaching chops with his leadership and motivational skills. Krueger, who currently has a job as the chairman of the Southampton Football Club in England, proved to the hockey world he could coach in the NHL again and deserves the opportunity if he wants it.

Team Europe shocked Team USA in the first game of the tournament with a 3-0 win. That set it off on a ride to the final, where it ran up against a giant in Team Canada.

Team Europe lost two in a row, but held its own and proved it could play with the best in the world because some of the players on that team, including captain Anze Kopitar, are among the best in the world.

"I'm grateful Team Europe existed for this year, as we all are in that room," Krueger said. "I don't think you'd find one person, staff or players, that's going to say anything but that they will remember September 2016 for the journey we undertook."

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