Amidst all the talk and speculation about which Team Canada will face in tomorrow’s semi-finals, both Head Coach Brent Sutter and his players had one thing to say at Vancouver’s GM Place on Monday: it just doesn’t matter.
“Whether you play Finland or Sweden, we know they’re both going to be very good hockey teams,” said Sutter. “We know we’re going have to be prepared to play them, but at the same time we have to play to the way we play, and focus in on what we need to do to be successful. We’ve got to play to our strengths.”
Canada takes on the winner of Monday’s Sweden-Finland contest at 16:00 January 3.
Though the Swedes played their Round Robin games in Kamloops and Kelowna and Sutter didn’t get a first-hand look at them, he said he does have a preliminary read on what to expect.
“What I know about the Swedes is, number one, they’ve gotten better every game they’ve played since the tournament started,” said Sutter. “They’re working hard and obviously they’re scoring goals. From what I’ve been told, they’re playing hard and they’re getting decent goaltending.”
Sutter’s squad handed Finland a 5-1 loss in the Boxing Day tournament opener, and as a result, the Canadian bench boss knows exactly what the Finns bring to the table.
“You know that they’re going to play hard and they’re going to compete, and they’ve got skill too,” said Sutter.
“We’ve learned throughout the tournament that we have to play a certain way, so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we just have to play our game,” said Team Canada’s starting goalie, Justin Pogge. “I’ll prepare for it the same way that I would for a playoff game, a regular season game or even an exhibition game. You’ve got to stay focused in the game.”
Though acknowledging that nerves may play a part in his team’s performance tomorrow, forward Steve Downie said his squad will have to persevere regardless of how the game is officiated.
“I’m sure there’s butterflies in everyone’s stomachs right now,” said Downie. “No one has been in this situation before, and we just have to be ready mentally and be ready to play. We’ve got to overcome the refereeing or whatever happens. We’ve just to got to learn to play through that and play our game.”
There was also talk about Canada’s apparent lack of secondary scoring, as the line of Downie, Blake Comeau, and Dustin Boyd has accounted for the bulk of Team Canada’s offence, with 14 points between them.
“The bottom line is to win hockey games,” said Sutter. “I don’t care who scores our goals, let’s just win. Some of these guys are playing different roles than they were on the teams they were playing on. It’s certainly a higher level of play compared to what you’re used to playing within your own league. I’m not worried about these guys. If the opportunity occurs or arise, these guys will produce.”
One of Team Canada’s forwards who still has more offensive potential to deliver is the speedy Andrew Cogliano.
“Hopefully in the semi-finals I can break out a bit and contribute offensively,” said Cogliano, who has two assists so far.
The Michigan sniper narrowly missed notching his first goal two days earlier against the Americans, as his wrist shot from about 10 feet out rang off the post.
“I think it would have helped, but the puck doesn’t always go in,” said Cogliano. “I was hoping it was going in, but it didn’t. I just have to kind of sit back and take it for what it was.”
Also on the agenda today was news of a trade involving one of Team Canada’s top D-men at this year’s World Juniors.
Luc Bourdon was dealt from the Val-d’Or Foreurs to the Moncton Wildcats on New Year’s Eve in exchange for centre Ian Girard and defenceman Jean-Sebastien Adam. The Wildcats also gave up a fourth-round draft pick in 2007 and a first-round draft pick in 2008.
“It was not shocking, because I was pretty sure it would happen,” said Bourdon. “There was a lot of rumours in the beginning of the season, so I guess I wasn’t surprised there. I’ve got a few good friends in Val-d’Or, and it’s going to be tough to leave my teammates of three years. But it’s part of the game, and I guess I have to move on.”
For now, the future is all about Tuesday’s semi-finals for Bourdon and his Canadian teammates.