The U.S. got a new hero today as Phil Kessel scored the country’s first Olympic hat trick in 12 years to lead the Americans to a 5-1 victory over Slovenia, completing a sweep of Group A in the process.
Kessel and Toronto teammate James van Riemsdyk have clicked in the Olympics, but it was the third member of that line — San Jose’s Joe Pavelski — that set up all three of Kessel’s goals today.
Kessel now has a tournament-leading seven points through three contests.
America also got goals from Ryan McDonagh and David Backes as an incredible 10 different American players have found the back of the net this tournament. That’s four more than each of Sweden and Russia.
Although today’s final score was as lopsided (as expected) in a match between one of the world’s top hockey nations and a country with just one NHL player, there were patches of this game were Slovenia put pressure on America, especially in the first period. United States goaltender Ryan Miller, playing in his first contest of the tournament, had to work hard and came 17.6 seconds short of the shutout.
With this victory, the Americans have earned a bye past the qualification round, but they will have to wait for the outcome of the Canada-Finland to determine their exact seed.
If Finland or Canada win in regulation, then the United States will end up with the third seed, but if that game goes to overtime, then the Americans might move up to the second spot.
Given that the Slovenians managed to upset Slovakia, they have earned the eighth seed and will play Austria in the qualification round. Slovenia has already surpassed expectations for its first Olympic tournament, but it has a decent chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.
With training camp and the preseason now in full swing, it appears the Bruins are bringing in a veteran blue liner — at least on a professional tryout.
On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that unrestricted free agent blue liner Christian Ehrhoff is about to join Boston on a PTO following his showing at the World Cup of Hockey.
In six games with Team Europe, Ehrhoff had three assists — all at even strength — and nine shots on goal.
Ehrhoff is now 34 years old, and the Bruins already have a pair of seasoned defenders in Zdeno Chara (39 years old) and John-Michael Liles (35 years old) on their roster. Adam McQuaid turns 30 years old in October.
He was most productive during two seasons in Vancouver, a puck-moving defenseman that could effectively skate the puck out of trouble and move the attack that way if need be. But that was from 2009 to 2011. His production has dipped, especially over the last three years.
He was also pivotal to Vancouver’s power play, especially in 2011 when the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it to the Stanley Cup Final — against Boston.
Again, that was five years ago.
Lehner (forearm contusion) to miss preseason game versus Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.
“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.
“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”
(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)
Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.
The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.
McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious
It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.
The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.