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Team North America's Johnny Gaudreau (13) celebrates his second goal with teammates Jonathan Drouin (72) and Aaron Ekblad (5) during third-period pre-tournament World Cup of Hockey action on Sept. 11, 2016 in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Modern professional hockey is constructed around concepts such as structure, cohesion and complementary parts, which all makes perfect sense.

Well, until conventional wisdom is confronted by a pallet-full of skill and the kind of speed that's usually reserved for racing ovals and physics textbooks.

Then it can crumble very quickly.

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Like in the space of 5 minutes 2 seconds, which is how long it took Team North America – half high-speed circus, half hockey team – to pump four goals past Team Europe's Thomas Greiss, an actual NHL goaltender, on just eight shots Sunday night at Bell Centre.

Rare is the team that can chase a goalie from an exhibition game midway through the first period (Europe, being pros, would recover).

Tournaments involving evenly matched teams are usually decided on the margins, hence the emphasis on team-building, systems and matching like-minded players with one another.

But Team North America is in a unique circumstance.

The North Americans are not playing for national pride – in fact, they'll be playing against their countries in the medal round, if all goes well – nor are they being paid to play together.

In fact, it's a team made up of long-standing Canadian and U.S. rivals, who in many cases, have competed bitterly throughout most of their young lives.

"There's a couple of guys in here, if they weren't on my team, I'd probably want to kill them," defenceman Aaron Ekblad said last week. "But that's the game of hockey: You're on the same team, you come together."

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Chemistry is a real thing in sports, but Team North America's skill and fleetness of foot is an interesting experiment in the true importance of familiarity and personal rapport.

Coach Todd McLellan has speculated that youthful legs and vigour may prove a considerable advantage in matchups against teams laden with veterans who are accustomed to building slowly through September and October.

"Let's face it," Europe captain Anze Kopitar said before Sunday's game, "they're faster than us."

Consider that McLellan's top line on Sunday featured Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid between shifty Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau and Buffalo Sabres power forward Jack Eichel – a combination of skating, playmaking and goal scoring that should terrify any opponent.

On the top unit's first shift together, Eichel stormed into the offensive zone and fought off a check to chip a puck forward to Gaudreau, who whipped it around the net for McDavid, who charged back the other way and put a pass on the hard-charging Eichel's tape for a gilt-edged scoring chance.

The sequence – neutral-zone rush to near goal – took maybe four seconds.

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Not bad for a unit involving three players who had a grand total of two practices together; Eichel said this weekend he couldn't recall the last time he played the wing.

Gaudreau would end the night with two goals.

And on it goes down the list.

Second-line winger Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning won the NHL's fastest-skater competition in 2013, and played alongside Nathan MacKinnon, another player widely regarded as among the quickest in the NHL; each would register an assist in North America's five-goal first period.

The reigning fastest-skater champion, Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin (who eclipsed Mike Gartner's 23-year-old record), was on the fourth line.

So yeah, you might say this group has wheels.

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But speed goes from nice-to-have to devastating when coupled with slick hands and hockey sense.

In the first period, Larkin dodged what would have been a thunderous hit by Europe's Dennis Seidenberg at his own blueline, setting up a three-on-one the other way and racing up the ice to fire a rebound past Greiss.

McLellan told reporters before Sunday's game he and his fellow coaches are racing to inculcate some semblance of systems play to get their players on the same page.

But not to the detriment of their principal competitive advantage.

"The last we wanted to do with our team was slow them down," he said. "We don't want to be overthinking, overanalyzing, we want them to play."

It's an interesting departure from the highly regimented approach that is now commonplace in the NHL.

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Also, it's not clear McLellan has much of a choice but to unleash his young charges and see where it leads.

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