It’s all about balance for the Canadian team as it makes its way through the IIHF World Hockey Championship. “You can’t be like a roller-coaster,” goaltender Dwayne Roloson said after Thursday’s 5-1 win over Switzerland. “You’ve got to be just like a straight line and try and balance everything out.
“Obviously (you can) be excited that we won, but at the same time (you have to) be mellow enough to realize that we got two important games coming up here that we need to win.”
The next one will be the toughest yet as Canada plays Sweden in the semifinal on Saturday 11:15 a.m. ET. The Swedes beat the Canadians in the semis last year on the way to winning the gold medal in Latvia.
Alex Steen is the only NHL player in the Swedish lineup at this tournament, which gives them one fewer than the Swiss had. But Canadian coach Andy Murray claims his team is the underdog because many of the Swedes have played together for so long.
“They couldn’t bring a team from the NHL that could play any better than what their team’s played at this tournament here,” said Murray.
The Canadians have so far enjoyed similar success. Even though they don’t have a lineup loaded with top-level talent, they’ve won all seven games they’ve played in the tournament.
The last time Canada went undefeated at the world championship was 2003, when Murray was also coaching.
This year’s team has been getting it done with a balanced attack. Matthew Lombardi scored two goals in Thursday’s win over Switzerland, giving him six total in seven games. He didn’t expect that kind of output and doesn’t necessarily think it will last.
“I probably wouldn’t believe it obviously,” said Lombardi, who had a career-high 20 goals this year for the Calgary Flames. “It’s just going in the net right now. Different guys contribute at different parts of the tournament . . .
“We’re playing the Swedes and it doesn’t matter who’s scoring the goals as long as we get a big game from different guys.”
Jamal Mayers, Rick Nash and Shea Weber also scored for Canada on Thursday while Canadian-born Paul DiPietro replied for Switzerland.
There was absolutely no atmosphere at cavernous Khodynka Arena, especially compared to the quarter-final game played by host Russia a day earlier. Players could often be heard calling for passes from one of the last rows in the second level.
It translated to a pretty dull start as the Swiss repeatedly iced the puck and the Canadians fought for a breakthrough. They directed 15 shots at Hiller before Lombardi opened the scoring at 15:22 after Swiss defenceman Sandy Jeannin had inadvertently cleared the puck right to him in front of the net.
“We played a pretty good game until then,” said Hiller. “It was a bad mistake and I think we only have a chance against Canada if we do everything right.
“We can’t (make) that kind of mistake.”
Mayers made it 2-0 at 9:05 of the second period, the St. Louis Blues winger driving out from behind the goal, shaking off a defender and sweeping the puck around Hiller. It’s the kind of move Nash is famous for.
“That was a great goal,” said Nash, a Columbus Blue Jackets forward. “I haven’t seen him do that before, but that was really impressive.”
The Swiss got it back quickly when DiPietro beat Roloson with a long slapshot that appeared to go off the stick of Canadian defenceman Nick Schultz.
It was the third straight goal DiPietro had scored against Canada dating to the two he had in Switzerland’s upset win at the Turin Olympics. That fact was noted on the Canadian bench.
“We just accept that that’s part of international hockey that he’s going to score against us,” Canadian captain Shane Doan said with a laugh. “We were kind of smiling about it. You can’t stop him so obviously you just hope to contain him.”
Nash’s goal with a 5-on-3 advantage before the period was out gave Canada all the breathing room it would need. Lombardi and Weber scored in the third.
The Canadians gave the Swiss credit after the game and were already looking ahead to the semifinal game with Sweden.
“We got about 30 minutes and we’ll get to work on (the semifinal),” said Murray. “Sleep is overrated in this tournament.”
The coach is a hard worker who is known for his preparation.
He cut the Canadian rotation back to three lines during the third period against Switzerland and mixed up his combinations because he wants his team to be ready for that sort of change if it’s need in the coming games.
That sort of organization helps the team keep an even keel.
“You just have to be kind of within your own team, kind of keep everybody informed,” said defenceman Eric Brewer. “Andy’s very good at keeping guys prepared and keeping things in perspective.”
Notes: Canada has a career record of 22-0-2 against Switzerland at this tournament . . . The Swiss have scored just 29 total goals in those 24 games.