TORONTO – As it turns out, the kids are all right.
In a game that featured many of the next generation of Finnish hockey stars, it was Team North America —comprised of the best 23-and-under American and Canadian players — that put its best, young foot forward.
Pegged as the entertaining, "it" team of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Team North America played the role to a tee, out-shooting and possessing Finland for the full 60 minutes at light-speed pace.
"Of course we know how they play," Finland head coach Lauri Marjamaki said. "We started off well. ... The second period was a cold shower for us. They got better, they won every battle, they skate hard, they are so aggressive. ... Such a great team."
It was a tough assignment for the new-look Finland. This morning, longtime Finnish defenseman Kimmo Timonen said he was interested in how his newest crop of blue liners would handle such an early challenge.
"They were tough to play against," Nathan MacKinnon said. "Our speed wore on them as the game went along. They played a good first period and we just got some good breaks."
Likewise, the Minnesota Wild Finnish trio of Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, and Erik Haula were thrown right into the fire. The former two, playing together on a line, saw lots of even-strength assignments against North America's Connor McDavid, Auston Matthew, and Mark Scheifele.
Haula's line matched up frequently against Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, and Dylan Larkin.
Koivu's line actually tread water against the McDavid line. North America's top offensive threat was held goalless at even-strength,
Though North America took a 1-0 lead 5:03 into the first period, the game's next goal came over 20 minutes of elapsed time later.
While the kids were firmly controlling play over that goalless stretch, it was still a one-score game, keeping the Finns within striking distance.
But just over five minutes into the second period, a Finland faceoff win in its defensive zone became a turnover when a puck was thrown up the glass.
It was met by Colton Parayko, who quickly shot toward the goal, deflected by Johnny Gaudreau past Pekka Rinne to make the game 2-0.
The floodgates opened from there, and North America scored three goals over a nine-minute span to make it a 4-0 game.
Team North America's collective speed influences the game in so many different ways, and in an international tournament, how quick they looked on an NHL-sized rink might have been the most telling.
From and x's and o's standpoint, North America was effective at both blue lines because of that quickness. In the offensive zone, they were carrying it in with control, or dumping the puck into an area they could skate into to regain possession.
When Finland attempted to generate offense, North America's ability to close and eliminate time and space was stifling.
The good news for Finland is, it won't face a team that can skate nearly as well as North America the rest of the round robin stage. Finland will have a chance to rebound on Tuesday when it faces rival Sweden.