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Todd Richards' Sochi blog: Feb. 20

by Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets

Hello again to all the fans back in Columbus. We're less than 24 hours from facing Canada in the semifinal of the Olympic tournament, and everyone here is getting ready to go.

For us right now, it’s just like playing any other big game. There’s excitement, there’s the preparation and all of those types of things but it’s different when you’re 'away' from it; when you’re right in the middle of it like we are, the focus is there and it has to be there. I know when you’re a fan, there’s probably more excitement than anything else, but when you’re a coach that’s trying to get the team ready, it’s mostly about the focus and helping to get our players ready for this game.

That’s what makes this tournament unique: all it takes is one game. It’s single elimination. When you’re playing a seven-game playoff series like you do in the NHL, you have opportunities to make up for a poor game, not being ready, or however you want to make up for it. In a tournament where you really only have one opportunity - and that’s the one at hand - you don’t get a re-do. There isn’t a Game 2, 3, or 4…this is Game 7 and every game from this point forward is Game 7.

Our first Game 7 was against the Czechs, and they’re a dangerous team with a solid NHL goaltender and lots of talented NHL players. Sometimes, you go into a game like that with some uneasiness because they hadn’t played that well…and that’s what these tournaments do. You’re on a very big stage and one with a lot of pressure, and it makes for great hockey.

Going forward, we need to continue to do what we’ve been doing since the start of this tournament, and that’s protecting the “inside ice” (between the face-off circles, prime scoring areas) and also the front of our net. Our players have done a good job, and the other thing you really notice is their commitment - a lot of players are going down to block shots and sacrificing their bodies, and you need that against some of these highly-skilled teams and we’re going to see one of those teams tomorrow. 

As for Canada, they’re a dangerous team. If you look at their forward lines, they have talented playmakers, goal-scorers, speed, size…you name it. Top to bottom. Many of their players have won before, whether that’s Stanley Cups or gold medals, and they’ve played in these big games. They have great goaltending, too, and big defensemen on the back end that can shoot the puck and also defend very well.

They’re a great team and you’re going to see a lot of the same things in the Sweden vs. Finland semifinal; all these teams play the right way, and the difference is going to be one play here or there - but you don’t know when it’s going to happen.

We need to be the team that makes that play, and be the difference-maker.

In this format, you can’t get ahead of yourself and I don’t think anyone is. This is a formidable opponent, without question, and it’d be foolish to be looking beyond that. I know that we have players in our locker room who were part of the 2010 (gold medal) game. That was a great game to watch, but they’re looking at this as an opportunity to perhaps redeem themselves.

This semifinal is set up quite uniquely in that we’re playing Canada and Finland is playing Sweden - two of the best rivalries in the sport. We’re all really looking forward to it.

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