Despite a hot start by Team USA, Tuesday night's matchup wasn't even close. Canada rolled to a 4-2 victory, ending Team USA's hopes of advancing to the semifinals.
The score line makes the game seem closer than it really was, but the Americans got off to a 1-0 lead thanks to Ryan McDonagh crashing the net and shoveling the puck over Carey Price. It was exactly what they needed to do in a game they weren't favored to win. It was pretty much everything after that, that went wrong.
The optimism lasted exactly one minute and 31 seconds before Matt Duchene tied the game. And then 14 seconds later, Corey Perry gave the Canadians a lead that they never gave up.
Before Team USA could even get out of the period, they committed a disastrous D-zone turnover that left Duchene with an open look and he didn't miss.
Duchene's 2nd goal pic.twitter.com/fqAW6fclJV— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 21, 2016
Patrice Bergeron provided the dagger off of a tremendous John Tavares pass (see below), making it 4-1 at that point in the second period.
A late goal for Team USA closed the gap, but it was too little, too late for a team that didn't look like it belonged on the same ice as its opponent for long stretches of that game.
Here are some takeaways:
1. Team USA got what they deserved and now they're done
The Americans were playing for their tournament lives. If you watched the first five minutes, you could see the team's desperation. They played like they wanted to pull off the surprise and got the game's first goal.
As soon as Canada scored those two goals in 14 seconds, it was as if the rug had been pulled out from under them and they never recovered. There was no sense of urgency. Zero puck control and next to no push-back.
The Americans were credited with 37 hits, but that seems generous. Any time they delivered a hit, they had a hard time getting the puck. The grit that this team was supposed to possess did little in terms of board battles, fighting for loose pucks or getting any kind of presence in front of Carey Price.
There was so much talk about Team USA's identity in the build up to the tournament, yet when they got on the ice, it was impossible to find out what that identity actually was. The result, both in this game and the fact that their tournament is effectively over, was deserved.
Now they have to wait until Thursday play a meaningless game against the Czech Republic, who are also eliminated based on this result. After that, these players will be headed back to their respective NHL training camps.
2. Canada and Europe clinched a spot in the semis
With the win Canada has clinched a spot in the semifinals. They will play Europe Wednesday in what amounts to the Group A championship game. Whoever wins that one takes first place in the group.
This Canadian team has been sharp from the second they dropped the puck, while Team Europe has been such a surprise. It's hard to envision any scenario in which Canada doesn't advance out of the group in first place. They were completely locked in Tuesday.
3. John Tavares' assist was an absolute beauty
The difference between Team USA and Canada is evident in the way the teams managed to create offense. Take, for instance, this beautiful play by John Tavares. He put Matt Niskanen on the World Cup highlight reel by putting the puck through his legs and put the puck towards the net.
The puck ended up deflecting off of Patrice Bergeron, then Ryan McDonagh and in and does it ever look great from the ref cam (via The Cauldron):
That was the goal that ended any notion of a comeback. The Americans had no answer.
4. This World Cup is a new low point for USA Hockey
Despite spectacular growth in youth hockey throughout the United States over the last 20 years, despite more Americans in the NHL than ever before and despite recent success on the international stage at lower levels, this U.S. roster will be responsible for one of the more embarrassing finishes at a major tournament since best-on-best hockey tournaments have existed.
The only excuse that allows the Americans to save a little face is that Team North America took away multiple options for this team to select (Johnny Gaudreau being one of the locks to have been on Team USA otherwise). The good news is that they can look at Team NA and see that the future for USA Hockey remains bright.
But now they have to answer for the team that they put on the ice. Make no mistake, while they didn't take the best possible roster, even the most talented veteran players had nothing in this tournament. They had absolutely no answer for Canada, only six years removed from the thrilling 2010 Olympics where they looked closer.
The reason this tournament in particular is so disappointing is that every single decision they made blew up in their faces and some of them looked preventable. Dean Lombardi's roster construction, John Tortorella's lineup decisions and the player execution when it came time to play the games. Every single thing went wrong for them.
The most troubling aspect of all of that is that the Americans did not lose with their best because they didn't bring their best. Even with the Team North America excuse built in, everything is open to second-guessing now because of the dramatic nature of this failure. They had to build a team that could compete with the best in the world for a maximum of seven games. They couldn't even do it for two.
If you're going to go down, go down with the best you've got. The names of the players on the sidelines that had a great case for making this team are many. That's usually a good problem to have, but not when you're sacrificing talent for grittiness and toughness and "identity".
The lack of scoring on this team was pretty predictable. That's why so few picked the U.S. to do much in this tournament. But when you look at who they left home, you wonder what could have been.
A hand injury would have prevented Phil Kessel from playing in this tournament, but that he wasn't even named to the team before that had become known shows how this team was constructed. Kessel was Team USA's leading scorer at the Sochi Olympics and now a Stanley Cup champion. He's the kind of player that at least gives you another weapon in your arsenal.
So how did he feel about how things transpired Tuesday?
Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn't put my finger on it.— Phil Kessel (@PKessel81) September 21, 2016
It's not even that the U.S. didn't win the World Cup or even have a chance to win the World Cup by reaching the semis, it's that they went out with such an uninspired brand of hockey with two listless performances. The roster construction was not good enough, but the player performance even under-performed the widely-limited expectations for this team. That's hard to do.
This is the kind of result that has to bring effective change as they ask how they can prevent something like this from ever happening again. A U.S. team has not won a best-on-best tournament since 1996. They finished second in Vancouver, fourth in Sochi and now could finish as low as last in this tournament. That's a spectacular backslide despite the quality of player improving over that same time frame.
The only bad thing about fixing the problems is that it might be four more years before they have a chance, especially if the NHL decides not to release its players for the 2018 Olympics. That's a long time to stew over this one.