COLUMBUS — Coach John Tortorella didn’t hesitate. Asked how Team USA needed to play to win the World Cup of Hockey 2016, he extended his right arm and set a tone on the first day of training camp at Nationwide Arena.
“We’re going to play that way,” he said.
Straight ahead. North-south hockey. If you don’t have the puck, get it back. If you have it, get it down the ice as quickly as possible and get it to the net. Get in your opponents’ faces and stay there.
This is not Team Canada, overflowing with talent and heavily favored to win the tournament on home ice at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. This is not Team Russia, especially strong up front, or Team Sweden, especially strong on defense.
This is Team USA, a mix of skill, grit and goaltending, partly by necessity and partly by design.
“I don’t think it’s any secret we’re going to be a big, hard team to play against,” defenseman Jack Johnson said. “We’re going to be very physical. … We’re going to try to make it a long night for a lot of teams.”
General manager Dean Lombardi did not select the best 23 American players. He selected the 23 American players he felt would comprise the best team for this particular tournament.
He has taken heat for not selecting skilled players like forward Phil Kessel and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (Kessel wouldn’t have been able to play because of a hand injury in the end, but that doesn’t change the philosophy.)
Team USA executives and coaches studied the potential rosters of other teams and the potential matchups, and they took into consideration that this tournament will be played on NHL ice under NHL rules in a short period of time.
Let’s face it: To win the tournament, Team USA likely will have to …
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