As far as what we hoped to see from Team Canada in the opening match of the Men’s Hockey tournament, that was as our mustachioed head coach would say “pretty good”. Strong performances across the board, special teams clicking, and apart from a hiccup in a late 3rd period power play that erased a shutout for Ben Scrivens, an effort that ensured the Swiss never had a sniff in this one. Led by 2 goals from Rene Bourque and Woitek Wolski, and a 3 assist night from Canucks legend Derek Roy, Canada was in command at all times, ensuring they didn’t let the Swiss stay close, which plays right into their wheelhouse. The effort didn’t stop Willie Desjardins from saying his team needs to work harder, and to be fair, they definitely could have turned it up a notch.
Tonight’s game is a much different animal, however. This Czech Republic team is a far more experienced squad, even if there’s a lot of names that don’t really ring a bell for a lot of North American fans. They do have Martin Ruzicka, Martin Erat, Michal Jordan, and Michal Repik, all with NHL experience, and a number of these players have extensive World Championships experience. This is not going to be a walk in the park for the Canadians, and they need to be prepared to battle against a much more physical Czech squad.
There was some skepticism that this Canadian team, comprised of guys playing in the twilight of their careers or plying their trade in Europe after not finding a home in the NHL wouldn’t have enough to take on the feared Russian squad. And while it’s early in the tournament, with the Russians already suffering a jaw-dropping loss to the Slovakians, maybe this group they’re calling “The Replacement Killers” isn’t getting enough respect. If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s a Canadian team, no matter who’s in the lineup, coming out hard and playing a Canadian-style game. They’re in your face when you have the puck. They finish their checks. They make you work for every chance you get. And they make you pay when you make a mistake.