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WCH 2016: 3 Takeaways from Team USA’s Exhibition Round

Team USA went 2-1 in their three preliminary games after facing Canada twice and Finland once. They had an even goal differential over the contests and tweaked their lineups throughout the round in search of chemistry.

The tournament begins Saturday afternoon, when the Americans face Team Europe at 3:30 PM EST.

What can we expect from the squad during pool play and the elimination games given what we saw from them in the exhibition round?

1) Team USA Will Be Physical

The United States did not hesitate to play a heavy game despite players not having competed for at least six weeks.

Ryan Kesler started the hard-hitting shenanigans after he boarded Canadian defenseman Shea Weber during the first preliminary matchup. Kesler earned a five-minute major for the hit, along with a 10-minute misconduct and a game-misconduct, but the check and the resulting scrum set the tone for the American’s style of play.

Brandon Dubisnky, T.J. Oshie, and Dustin Byfuglien each took one minor penalty that game as well.

Team USA accumulated 59 penalty minutes over the three preliminary games—more than any other team in the tournament by a large margin.

2) Eric Johnson Outplayed Jack Johnson

Though neither defenseman received much praise after being selected for their nation’s team, it appears Eric Johnson is the lesser of two evils for the United States.

Eric Johnson went pointless in his two games with the club, but logged only a minus-one rating despite playing in the American’s lone loss to Canada.

Jack Johnson, on the other hand, registered a minus-three rating through three games. He was on the ice for four of the five goals Team USA surrendered at even strength.

Eric Johnson also played a solid game against Canada during the second half of back-to-backs. He was positionally sound and had a number of scoring chances in the contest.

3) Team USA Can Beat Canada

Team USA opened the preliminary games with a 4-2 win over Canada.

It was a physical, chippy game that saw the Canadiens get the vast majority of the shots. But, the Americans showed they could survive an offensive onslaught and convert on their opportunities.

Quick played well, and the top-six forwards had a big game by scoring all four goals for their team.

Only Dubisnky finished with a minus rating.

Additionally, the Canadian roster resembled something very close to what their starting lineup will look like when the official tournament begins. Unlike their second matchup, Sidney Crosby and Jake Muzzin were on the ice for this first game.

This wasn’t a typical exhibition lineup, this was the full-force squad, and this single win should spark a lot of confidence inside the American locker room.

About Drew Weber

Drew Weber is a lover of hockey and abuser of analytics. Prior to joining Pucknology, he covered the San Jose Sharks and Team USA for The Hockey Writers and contributed briefly to Fear the Fin. You can follow him on Twitter at @puck_over_glass.

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