Can they do it?!
Jones: Canada's dreaded quarterfinal at the IIHF World Championship
Canada's Jordan Eberle celebrates his goal with teammates in a game against France at the O2 arena in Prague, Czech Republic on May 9, 2015. (REUTERS/David W Cerny)
IIHF World Hockey Championship
Quarterfinals - Canada vs. Belarus
Thursday, 8AM MST; 10AM EST
PRAGUE, Czech Republic – It’s ‘The Dreaded Game.’
Or by its much longer, official title, ‘The Dreaded Crossover Quarterfinal Game.’
It’s the game Canada always loses at the IIHF World Championship. OK. Not always. It just seems that way.
The ‘Dreaded Crossover Quarterfinal Game’ is the one-and-done game of the tournament. Lose and you go home without a medal.
For the past five years the Canadian team has lost the game and gone home without a medal.
Last year in Minsk Canada finished first in Group A with a 5-1-1 record and outscored teams 28-13. Lost the DCQF game. It was a 3-2 defeat to fourth place 3-3-1 Finland, a team with an 18-14 goals for-against.
“Because we are a relatively new group, not a lot of guys on this team played last year in the world championships. So we have to make our own history, not be with what happened in the past,” said coach Todd McLellan who has his own San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup playoff past to deal with.
Two years ago in Stockholm, Canada finished second at 5-1-1 and lost 3-2 to third place Sweden in the DCQF.
“This is my fifth year here and I’ve never made it past the quarterfinal. What I’ve learned is that you have to play your best or you’re going home,” said Jordan Eberle.
“This is the best chance I’ve had. You look at our roster and the way our guys are gelling and coming together and the way we’re playing as a team. Todd has us firing on all cylinders. Any line he puts out, we’ve been dangerous. When you put that with the way the defence is moving the puck, the way they’re jumping into the play, the way we’re playing as a team and our special teams, we’re definitely tough to beat.”
Three years ago in Helsinki, Canada was 6-0-1, outscoring teams 35-15. Lost the DCQF game 4-3 to fourth-place Slovakia.
“It’s a difficult game. We have to make sure there’s no surprise or emotional letdown coming off the group stage here,” said Jason Spezza.
“They’re going to be ready to go. Belarus can be a tricky team. They’re a structured team that plays together during the season. This is probably going to be our toughest game yet, finding that intensity, being ready to go and knowing what’s at stake. This is the tough part. You build all this for this last week and this is going to be our test.
“We have guys in that room who have lost that quarterfinal game. So we know the importance of it. I haven’t lost too many games in this tournament and I haven’t won a gold medal.”
Four years ago in Bratislava, Canada didn’t lose in regulation, finished first and lost the DCQF 2-1 to Russia.
“You get to this game and every shift and every play matters now,” said Dan Hamhuis.
“There’s always lots of pressure but I’m sure this team we have this year is going to enjoy that pressure and play well.”
Five years ago in Cologne, Germany the Canadians were on the other end of it, finishing fourth and losing the DCQF game 5-2 to Russia.
“Honestly, in the last few years we’ve out-played teams and just didn’t get the breaks. We didn’t get the save. Or we didn’t score. We’ve had good enough teams,” said Bob Nicholson of the last five years of his run of Hockey Canada, which includes a stunning 44 gold medals but not one at the world championship since 2007.
“We’ve outshot teams 45-15. This team, this year, is poised to do quite well. But it’s still about winning that one game.”
New Hockey Canada president Tom Renney, who was on the coaching staff with Mike Babcock when Canada won gold here in 2004, says this isn’t any other year with this 7-0 team which has outscored teams 49-14 and is going up against a team from Belarus which has scored 20 goals and given up 19.
“This is as close to bringing over our best possible team as we’ve had in a long time. It’s certainly the best team we’ve had in a while. Some of the other ones were real close, too. But you lose that quarterfinal game, that crossover game, and you’re going home,” said Renney.
“The bottom line is to bring teams over here to give yourself a chance to be the best team on the ice every single game and that’s what this team has.”
Calder trophy rookie of the year candidate Aaron Ekblad cares nothing of the past.
“I think we have a great team. Our goal has been to get better day in and day out and we’ve been doing that and it’s not going to stop with the crossover game. We have a lot of great players,” he said.
Finally, you have to figure, Canada will win The Dreaded Crossover Quarterfinal Game.
But that has been written before.
Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones