• Team USA turns to Kane

    From IIHF News@1:266/404 to All on Thu May 3 18:30:37 2018
    USA has been a team on the move. In recent World Championship competition, the Americans have won two bronze medals in the past five years.

    After a disappointing 2-1 opening game loss to Germany in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Team USA won its next six games before a quarterfinals loss that knocked them out of the tournament. This time they feature the talents of Patrick Kane, returning to the World Championship for the first time in ten years. They will also ice a team boasting some of USA Hockey's best and brightest talents at the elite level. The question will be whether they have enough talent, skill, and good fortune to move into the rarified air of gold medal competition.


    Keith Kinkaid and Scott Darling may compete for time here. Kinkaid saw action in six games at the 2016 World Championship in Russia. Kinkaid earns a long look with his 43 games played and 26 wins for New Jersey. Scott Darling had a tough season. He had the worst goals against among goaltenders with more than 20 starts. In fairness, Darling faced many uncontested, high percentage scoring
    chances. Darling still has a chance to become a starting goaltender in the NHL and perform at the top level. The World Championships offer a chance to restore
    some confidence and play games that count. Montreal Canadiens prospect Charlie Lindgren spent the bulk of his time in the AHL with the Laval Rocket.


    Connor Murphy has been a national team mainstay since 2014. The big stay-at-home defenseman can be counted on to provide a steady hand on the backline and contribute timely offensive production. Nick Jensen is another stabilizing presence. In 81 games with the Detroit Red Wings, Jensen contributed 15 assists and 88 blocked shots. Will Butcher is a player to watch on the big ice. Butcher completed his rookie season with the New Jersey Devils where he set a record for points for a first-year defenseman. Butcher is a strong passer who can lead a rush out of his end and play in special team situations. Butcher earned the praise of his teammates, including Taylor Hall, for his ability to read plays, make effective passes and demonstrate poise on the ice. Neal Pionk opened eyes in his 28-game stint with the New York Rangers.
    Pionk was exceptional in all situations for the Rangers and matched up well against opposing teams' top lines. Alec Martinez brings leadership and Stanley up experience to the lineup. Martinez is another strong shot blocker who redirected 208 shots this season. 18-year-old Quinn Hughes will be another player getting attention. The University of Michigan product is likely a top ten pick in next month's NHL Draft.


    The Americans have a skilled group of forwards to choose from. Cam Atkinson's production dipped from 35 goals in 2016-17 to 24 this season. But he is still dangerous. Anders Lee continued to demonstrate his ability to score at the NHL level with a personal best 40 goal season. Lee is most effective using his big body in front of the net to disrupt and score in close quarters. Johnny "Hockey" Gaudreau just continues to improve. The New Jersey native, scored 24 goals and 84 points for the Calgary Flames. The small but speedy Gaudreau is fun to watch, especially on international ice. Alex DeBrincat had a strong rookie season with the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored 28 goals and 52 points. A pair of New Jersey Devils are among the group. Blake Coleman and Brian Gibbons are both tenacious, speedy players who excel on the shorthanded special teams play. They can create chances that can possibly nullify opposing teams' power play opportunities. Dylan Larkin put up his best offensive numbers this season with 63 points. Chris Kreider will play after suffering a serious injury months
    ago. He was diagnosed with a blood clot in January that required a rib resection keeping him out of the lineup. He's admirably represented USA Hockey at the World Championships and is a selfless player and leader. Patrick Kane is
    clearly a player whose participation makes Team USA better. Kane last represented his country at the World Championships after he completed his rookie season in 2008. Since then, he's won two Stanley Cups and is one half of
    Chicago's dynamic duo with Jonathan Toews. After a disappointing regular season
    that saw Chicago miss the playoffs, Kane has a chance to help the American go far in this tournament.


    USA head coach Jeff Blashill is making his second straight appearance behind the bench. Last year, he rallied his team after an opening game loss to the tournament co-host Germany, but finished strong in the Preliminary Round with six straight wins. He will also have four players returning from last year's team and members of his NHL team, the Detroit Red Wings, to work with. Stanley Cup winning coach Dan Bylsma, who is no stranger to behind a USA Hockey bench, will assist Blashill. Bylsma was the head coach of Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and an assistant on the bronze medal World Championship team in 2015 in the Czech Republic. Don Granato and Seth Appert will also lend their
    considerable talents to the coaching leadership team.

    Projected results

    While USA Hockey has experienced some success, and has made important strides at the World Championships, there's a real desire to move beyond qualifying for
    the playoff round and winning bronze. There is a real desire on the part of players competing these days to want to win it all. Team USA comes to the World
    Championships not only to compete but to win. And more players are answering the call to play in this tournament. This was due in large part to Jim Johansson's leadership and vision. With his unexpected death in January, there is a void, for now, among the USA delegation in this tournament but a legacy of
    recent success that this squad will hope to match, if not exceed.

    JOHN SANFUL Team USA forward Patrick Kane with a scoring chance on Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

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