PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – It's a simple and proven recipe that Canada is following at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"Focus on the present," says Canadian assistant coach Curtis Hunt. "We don't want to look backwards at all and we do not want to look beyond anybody. Everybody here is talent and has a chance to win."
Hunt was commenting on whether Canada's 20-game winning streak at the World Juniors was a motivating factor at this year’s event.
And while he acknowledged the National Junior Team is aware of the streak, the focus for the Canadian teenagers is on winning a fourth straight gold medal, and that means taking it one game at a time.
After posting consecutive wins in a span of less than 24 hours, the Canadians began preparations on Friday for Saturday's game against Sweden.
The Canadian coaching staff took in Sweden's 4-3 win over Slovakia on Wednesday and planned to watch the Swedes against Denmark on Friday.
"They (the Swedes) are a younger team than a year ago. They play well with the puck and they skate and move the puck well," said Hunt, who is the head coach of the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. "They want to play that puck possession game and for us, it is the biggest game in the tournament and we want to make sure we play a good team game against them."
Canada opened the tournament with consecutive shutouts. Goaltender Steve Mason (Oakville, ON/London, OHL) made 22 saves in a 2-0 over Slovakia after Jonathan Bernier (Laval, QC/Lewiston, QMJHL) stopped 44 shots in a 3-0 win over the host Czechs.
Hunt said the coaching staff was pleased with the effort but recognizes there are areas that need improvement.
"I think the one area of our game where we want to be better is to have some tenacity in the offensive zone. We want to make sure we take pucks to the net and play that Canadian game between the dots and in the slot," he said
"We are used to playing in that tight rink (i.e. the smaller North American ice surface) and I think sometimes in the big ice, there is a few more feet to work with. But we recognize we want to get people to pucks and get to the scoring areas, especially five-on-five."
"We just want to get better every day and that is in all three zones, whether it is cleaner coming out of our zone, more shots and more traffic, all those areas. It is that team game that will give us the opportunity for what we came for."
Four of Canada's five goals in the competition have come on the power play. John Tavares (Oakville, ON/Oshawa, OHL) scored twice against the Czechs and Kyle Turris (New Westminster, BC/University of Wisconsin, WHL) followed with a pair of goals against the Slovaks.
On the flip side, the Canadian penalty-killing units have been perfect.
"Penalty killing starts with your goaltending and both guys, when teams have done a good job creating quality chances, have shut them down and I think they have done a great job with the rebounds," said Hunt. "Penalty killing is hard work, it is straight lanes and the willing ness to block shots and as a staff we are proud with the way we have killed penalties. But we know there is a long road ahead of us."
There's more to winning than playing the games, and Hunt credits the environment Hockey Canada has created up for the players and staff.
The National Junior Team is housed in a quality downtown hotel and has brought along its own cook to provide proper nourishment.
"The guys here do such a great job of the logistics, the of-ice issues, making sure everything is organized and in place. All of us can focus on our specific roles, whether that is coaching or playing and they have done a tremendous job or making sure the kids are fed right."
It is all part of the recipe for success.
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