By Chris Johnston – Sportsnet
You just don’t know for sure what it’s going to be like until you see it.
We had all studied the rosters and watched closely as the world’s top players practised together throughout the week. We’d heard talk that the rivalry would be evident even in pre-tournament games.
But, man, who thought it would look so real so soon?
Team Canada played pretty well despite dropping Friday’s game 4-2 to Team USA. There are no moral victories, especially in short international tournaments, but wins and losses don’t count just yet. And the Canadians owned the puck.
The final shots counter read 43-25 and the play felt more lopsided than that.
The teams are back at it in Ottawa on Saturday night and play again in the preliminary round once the World Cup begins.
Here are some takeaways from Team Canada’s first game together:
Price is right
It was a moment nearly 10 months in the making and Carey Price got what he needed.
Facing 18 shots in the first period is not something Team Canada coach Mike Babcock would have wanted, but it was a good test for a goalie who hadn’t played a game since Nov. 25.
Sure, Price allowed three goals. The second one to Patrick Kane wasn’t the sort of shot that would normally get past him.
But there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be better the next time out and this was a big hurdle to cross after recovering from a strained MCL in his right knee. He made some nice saves and got comfortable.
The comeback is complete.
It’s early, yes.
But maybe – just maybe – this will be the one best-on-best event where we don’t spend the whole tournament discussing Sidney Crosby’s linemates.
Brad Marchand had an incredibly strong night on the left side. Patrice Bergeron, a frequent Crosby partner at these events over the years, was his reliable self on the right. Crosby registered four shots on goal in the first period alone and could easily have had a couple goals.
Remember, this was the first time the trio ever played together in live game action and they were in sync.
They also got Team Canada on the board in the second period after Marchand stripped Zach Parise of the puck. Crosby took a hit while making a nice pass and Bergeron beat Jonathan Quick after a toe drag.
When all was said and done, the Marchand-Crosby-Bergeron line accounted for 18 shots on net. They were the best on either side.
Alex Pietrangelo has an unenviable job after being moved to the left side despite being a right-hand shot.
He didn’t look like himself at any point. He bobbled the puck at the blue-line and struggled to contain Kane in the corner before Team USA’s second goal. He was on the ice for the third one as well.
It may not be Pietrangelo’s fault, but it’s an issue worth following for Team Canada.
Ever since Duncan Keith had to pull himself out of the event a couple weeks back, it’s created an issue for Babcock. They are dressing four righties and two lefties, so somebody has to be out of position.
Pietrangelo is the guy so far and it’s clearly a work in progress.
No one who watched this game will question if the participants cared.
Wow! It’s only Sept. 9 and that was real hockey.
Crosby cross-checked Kyle Palmieri in the first period and a scrum ensued.
There was much more than that.
Three different Team Canada players spent time in the training room and each returned to the game. Tyler Seguin went feet first into the boards, Logan Couture looked woozy after a questionable hit from T.J. Oshie and Claude Giroux was hobbled by a late, unnecessary check from Joe Pavelski.
It’s on now.