TORONTO (AP) Patrick Kane looks at 2010 Vancouver Olympic final loss to Canada as the United States being one goal away from gold. Jonathan Quick looks at the 2014 Sochi Olympic semifinal loss as the U.S. being one goal away from playing for gold.
This generation of U.S. players has always been one goal away and unable to finish the job. With Kane, Quick, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and captain Joe Pavelski among those back for another crack, the realization is setting in that this World Cup of Hockey is the Americans’ best and perhaps last chance to win an international championship.
Coach John Tortorella has told his team, “It’s time.”
“We’re probably in the prime and peak of our careers right now where we feel that it’s time to make something happen,” Kane said. “You can think about that pressure, you can do whatever you want with it, but it comes down to this tournament for us and this tournament only.”
The Americans open tournament play in Toronto on Saturday against Team Europe, and the showdown against Canada is Tuesday. With only three games in round-robin play, there’s urgency for every team to start strong and no breathing room.
Kane pointed out that previous American generations won at the 1960 and 1980 Olympics and 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Kane, Quick, Parise, Suter, Pavelski, David Backes and Ryan Kesler have been around for six years and through two Olympics and it’s not just time, it’s about time.
“We’ve been there and we’ve had our chances and it’s time to break through,” Pavelski said. “We’ve been close, but we’re looking for a little bit more out of each other and to really find that right ingredient and that big play at the right moment.”
Look no further than Kane, who won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP last season for the Chicago Blackhawks and led the league in scoring with 106 points. He’s the brightest of the U.S. stars and will have to do better than the zero goals and four points he produced in Sochi. Winger Max Pacioretty called Kane “the best player in the game” and the World Cup the perfect situation for him.
“I’d go as far as to say our team has a good chance because Patrick Kane is in his prime,” Pacioretty said. “This tournament sets up perfectly for him. … A guy like that can change a game in one shift so I think for the rest of the team our identity is be hard to play against, make life difficult for them, but Kaner, let him do his thing.”
Some things to watch as the United States faces Europe:
Tortorella has Kane with left winger James van Riemsdyk and center Derek Stepan, and Pavelski centering Parise and Blake Wheeler, but won’t hesitate to shake things up. Already Pacioretty has been bounced around the lineup, and everyone is on a short leash.
“We can’t wait and it’s not about feeling our way through,” Tortorella said.
Europe coach Ralph Krueger isn’t professing “it’s time” for a team that has never played together before, but he does know the clock is running out on players like 39-year-old Zdeno Chara, 38-year-old Mark Streit, 37-year-old Marian Hossa and 35-year-old Dennis Seidenberg.
“For a lot of them it might be the last time on this big a stage to have an opportunity to do something special, and we can feel the hunger for that,” Krueger said.
QUICK VS. HALAK
Quick starts in goal for the U.S. against Europe’s Jaroslav Halak, who was impressive in the exhibition finale against Sweden. Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Europe’s top offensive players could be a tougher test for Quick than anyone thinks.
The teams are full of veteran players who are familiar with elite tournaments, but the first game of the entire World Cup could see some early butterflies. A first-period mistake could have a long-term impact, especially because goal differential is a tiebreaker.
If there’s anything U.S. has more than other teams in the tournament it’s size and strength. Europe can’t match that and will have to use finesse and playmaking to counteract the Americans’ power.
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