Canada destroyed the US World Junior team 4-1 last night, and really, the score wasn't even that close. Canada rose to the challenge of the moment, and the US looked like they didn't even bother to show up. This team cemented their place alongside the 1998 Olympic team and 2005 World Junior team as USA Hockey teams coming off a big win, with high expectations that turned in embarrassing performances and disappointing results.
There's nothing wrong with losing to Canada, which has a great squad. But to play with that type of sloppiness and lack of effort in what could very likely be one of the biggest games any of those kids will ever play in is absolutely unacceptable. Canada played a great game, but the US made it entirely too easy on them. The great US team speed that was supposed to neutralize Canada's size on defense? I counted a US forward using his speed to the outside exactly once all game: Emerson Etem driving around a Canadian with seven minutes left in the game and the game already over. Canada's question marks in goal? Any goalie would have looked good when a team only settles for shots from the far edges of the perimeter. There's really nothing positive you can say about the way they played.
So it's another two steps backwards for the US after taking a step forward last year. This was their opportunity to prove that they can be more just a plucky underdog that can occasionally steal away a hockey title from Canada. And just like the last two times they had that opportunity on the big stage, they came up miles short. Maybe it will just take time for the US to reach that level, but it's frustrating to watch teams with that ability squander chances like they had last night.