Team Canada knows it must raise game
Coach Mike Babcock didn't have a lot of positive things to say after his team's shootout win vs. Switzerland.
Babcock will probably soak up some of the experience too, but you know where his mind will be. He has two days to figure out a way to get more out of his supremely talented team before Sunday's Pool A finale against Team USA.
And there's a lot to think about.
"Good thing I have two days to figure all that out," Babcock said with a smile. "I think the big thing is when you look at our whole group, we didn't think we were as good as we are capable of being at all (against Switzerland). We didn't think our D moved the puck like we could. We didn't think we were a good five-man unit. We didn't think we attacked their net and were relentless like we could have. We thought we got outworked at times. When you go through the whole thing, all of us have to be better."
Babcock said he didn't mind the way the Canadians played early in the game. They took a 2-0 lead on Patrick Marleau's power-play goal 35 seconds into the second period.
However, after Switzerland scored on a 2-on-1 rush just over eight minutes later, Babcock felt the game turn and perhaps his players started squeezing their sticks, the first sign of the incredible pressure getting to the home team.
It's only going to intensify as the tournament proceeds.
"I don't think it was a wake-up call," Canada captain Scott Niedermayer told NHL.com emphatically. "There are good hockey teams here. We can get better. We're going to work on it and we're going to be better. But no wake-up call."
Maybe not, but someone or something has to shake the Canadian power play out of its funk.
Marleau scored eight seconds into Canada's power play early in the second period, but it was the only time the Canadians struck on seven opportunities Thursday night. It is 3-for-13 through two games, a respectable 23.1 percent, but not nearly good enough with the incredible talent Canada deploys.
"I thought it was static," Babcock said. "They had good sticks and (Jonas) Hiller in net. They did a good job, but I thought it was static and we didn't have a lot of emotion on it. We didn't shoot the puck and the penalty killers did a good job with good sticks. They got to collapse and try to figure out where to box out, and we didn't do that. We were an easy power play to play against. In saying all that, we like our ability and we like our plan of where we are going. We have to execute way better."
He also has to find the right person to play on Sidney Crosby's right side. Rick Nash appears at home on his left, but Babcock ran through Jarome Iginla, Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews in the third period and overtime Thursday.
"Well, I didn't think they were good," Babcock said of the Crosby, Nash and Iginla trio that started the game against Switzerland. "I thought our San Jose line was our best line … but as a group, when you go through our whole team and you look at the high end of their game, we weren't as good as we were capable of being. Is that line combinations or is that just individually we need to be better?"
The one thing Babcock won't spend any time thinking about over the next two days is his starting goalie. After watching Martin Brodeur play with such poise Thursday night, especially in the shootout when he was 4-for-4, Babcock named the Devils' netminder his starter for Sunday's game.
"You have to embrace those pressure situations and respond and I thought Marty did a great job," Babcock said. "That's great leadership and that's what we all have to do. We have to drink up the situation and I thought his example was fantastic and he will start against the U.S."
The rest is up in the air.
"As a coach you want to win every night and you want to play real well every night, but every championship I have been involved with your team has to go through adversity and that's what we had here," Babcock said. "You could sit back and say it was because of this or that, but we weren't as good as we could have been. We all know it. Anybody that sees them on a regular basis knows they can be better than they were (Thursday)."