Team North America has become appointment viewing in the World Cup of Hockey.
But a loss to Russia on Monday means a spot for the youngsters in the semifinal round is far from a guarantee.
And the loss — a 4-3 decision in which Matt Murray gave up four goals on 19 shots before getting pulled in the second period — could mean that coach Todd McLellan has a decision ahead of him for his squad’s pivotal game against Sweden on Wednesday. Does he go back to Murray, or will he opt to go with someone else?
John Gibson replaced Murray and stopped all six shots he faced. The North Americans tried, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Murray also hurt his thumb during the contest, saying that he jammed it during the second period, according to The Canadian Press. The Pittsburgh Penguins puck stopper has downplayed the ailment, calling it “pretty minor.”
“The good thing is, when John went in, he played well. I thought he had to make a couple early saves. We have real good options. If it’s Matt Murray then great, if it’s John Gibson, we feel comfortable and if it’s Connor (Hellebuyck) we feel good,” said McLellan.
If Murray’s thumb doesn’t present any further problems, it would make sense for McLellan to go back to Murray, especially given his performance and experience from the Stanley Cup playoffs only a few months ago.
With its impressive combination of youth, speed and skill, Team North America scored victories over Team Europe in the pre-tournament portion of the competition, and a 4-1 win in its opener against Finland in Group B action.
But the loss to Russia has tightened the standings in that group, with Sweden facing Finland as of the writing of this post. A win for Sweden would give them four points, putting them at the top of the group.