Trying to take noose off Canada's necks
Team Canada head coach Brent Sutter says his team is upbeat heading into their game against Slovakia on Thursday. (Darren Makowichuk/QMI Agency/Files)
Due to the early hours of the game telecasts across the time zones from coast to coast in Canada Thursday morning, you'll know the results of the approach soon enough.
But Team Canada coach Brent Sutter went out of his way here Wednesday, including holding a short, fun up-tempo practice, to try take the noose from around Team Canada's neck going into the lose-and-you-go-home quarterfinal against Slovakia at the world hockey championship.
"We're looking forward to this game. We're excited about it," said Sutter. "We've played pretty good hockey here. Our goals against is right where we want it.
"Let's rise to the challenge and be excited about it.
"Attitude is a big deal. We're not uptight about it. Let's go play!
Everyone through the mixed zone Wednesday was singing the same song.
"We're excited to be here and playing this game is what it's all about. We're coming together as a team. We were practicing hard and having fun," said Jamie Benn.
With the shared hosting of the event by two countries for the first time, instead of the quarterfinals being crossover games between the first place team in one pool and fourth place team in the other pool, it's 1-4 and 2-3 in your own pool.
Which means you've played the team before and watched them play the other teams during the tournament.
Canada opened the tournament against Slovakia, scoring a 3-2 win.
"I like this new format the way it is. Let's take advantage of it," said Sutter.
The interesting thing with Sutter's approach is that he's never been involved in the quarterfinal before. In the world juniors where he coached Canada to two undefeated trips to gold medals, first place teams in the pools get a bye to the semifinals.
The last two years Canada lost to Russia and gone home.
The quarterfinal has been the Bermuda Triangle for a lot of top teams over the years. Take the situation in which Finland finds itself in this tournament. Only six times in the last 20 years has the host nation won the quarterfinal.
Slovakia hadn't made it into a quarterfinal much less won one since 2007, which happens to be the last time Canada won gold.
Zdeno Chara made it quite clear the reason he answered the call of his country this year was to help qualify Slovakia for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"We had two goals," said the towering defenceman with the Boston Bruins.
"We wanted to move into the top four of our pool for the first time in five years. And we wanted to qualify for the Olympics. We accomplished both with our win over France in our final round robin game.
"We are not done yet.
"We're in the quarterfinal and it's nerve wracking," he said of the make-or-break game where winning means a 75% chance of going home with a medal which is considered a success by most European nations.
"It's going to be a tough game. Lots of our guys have never been in this position before. No matter what happens they can use this in the future as experience.
"For me, it's pressure I enjoy. I like to be playing in games like this. These are the game you play hockey for. I'm preparing to enjoy it and excited to win."
Zdeno Sutter speaking?
"I think the quarterfinal is 50-50," said Tomas Tatar.
"I think we will play a really good game. I think Canada will be afraid of us and respect our hockey," added the Grand Rapids Griffin.
Miroslav Satan figures Canada will be better at the end of the tournament than they were at the start when they scored the 3-2 win.
"They were not the same then as now," said the 37-year-old veteran of 1,050 NHL games who began his pro career with the Edmonton Oilers.
But, it's the quarterfinal, he said. Stuff can happen.