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To fans, Canada's win exciting, cause for worry

Saturday, 02.20.2010 / 10:26 AM / NHL Network

By Brian Duff - NHL Network

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To fans, Canada's win exciting, cause for worry
Team Canada's shootout win over the Swiss was exciting to be sure, but also leaves Canadians worried headed into Sunday's game against the U.S.
Rivalry? Rivalry! Who has to time to worry about a rivalry when Canada needs a shootout to beat Switzerland!

With feelings of anxiety, confusion, and in some cases outrage, a nation awaits its next challenge in Olympic men's ice hockey – a Sunday night border clash with Team USA.

But more to the point, it's having a lot of difficulty getting over its last game.

An elite entry on the world stage – based upon an NHL payroll that would far exceed $100 million – Canada quickly morphed itself into just another "Leaf" team if you were to believe those who voiced their concerns on Leafs Lunch on AM640 in Toronto.

"These guys should be embarrassed."

"Why is Chris Pronger on this team? Get rid of him!"

"Can't anyone run the power play?"

"This defense is brutal!"

So much for the feel good aspects coming out of game one.

Overreaction of course is part of the fun of being in this business – whether you're hearing it, or playing the role yourself. But amidst the latest Canadian storm, some points of interest emerged.

One fan was really taken aback by seeing a number of Canadian players smiling, almost joking on the bench as they waited for the shootout. His belief being you would never have seen this on international championship teams from the 70's or 80's.

It's hard to corroborate that without going through hours (or days) of footage.

The counterargument would be that despite choking against the Swiss in 2006, this group remained calm, managed to breathe, and found a way to win.

But nobody wants to hear that, do they?

Many were in agreement, and properly so, that this game was just flat-out exciting. An intense competition level met by both sides, in a game in which Switzerland really wanted to beat Canada.

It's what they came here to do.

It's what everyone is here to do.

We offered up a poll question on 640Toronto.com that asked "What country provides the greatest rivalry for Canada in hockey?"

Predictably, Russia led the way at just under 50 percent, while the U.S. was second at just shy of 40 percent.

A more telling question, if asked in every other country participating in the tournament, would be "If your team could win only one game in the Olympics, who would you want them to beat?"

Geography, history, and politics would take a backseat for many and Canada would easily emerge as the popular choice.

And that's the point.

As much as we can't wait for rivalry Sunday, to relive the last three Olympic gold-medal matchups, Team Canada braces for this type of intensity every time out, at home or abroad.

If it doesn't, we can refer you back to 2006. Or the 50 years prior to 2002.

Who are the contenders? -- Anyone that watched the action on Thursday would have had a very difficult time ranking the "contenders."

Through 54 minutes, the Americans had a less than convincing 3-1 lead on Norway.

Canada coughed up a 2-0 lead to Switzerland.

And Russia – for all the hype – couldn't beat a banged up Slovak squad that was playing on back-to-back nights.

Of course, Sweden had a narrow win over Germany Wednesday and then a third-period scare from Belarus Friday.

So where do they all stand heading into Sunday?

Hall of Fame defenseman, and NHL Network analyst Denis Potvin joined Scott Laughlin and myself on The Power Play (XM 204, Sirius 208, NHL Network) and felt that in his eyes, Finland was the most well-rounded of the elite. The four-time Cup winner cited their 5-man play as their biggest strength. And that was before a second impressive win, this time 5-0 over Germany.

We'll keep his assessment top of mind as Finland, and the tournament moves towards the medal round.


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