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Members of Team Canada watched the thriller between the United States and Russia as fans of hockey, while still realizing the tough task ahead on the road to an Olympic gold medal.
“Tournament on,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They don’t give out these medals. You’ve got to earn it, and it’s at a high, high level.”
The U.S. beat Russia 3-2 following an eight-round shootout that featured four goals on six attempts by overnight hero T.J. Oshie. Jonathan Toews and some teammates watched on television in the athletes village, while others were at Bolshoy Ice Dome for the spectacle.
No matter the viewpoint, the Canadians saw the game as the standard for the level of play that will be needed to win.
“I think for us to watch that we know we might have to go something like that pretty soon, so we’ve got to be ready for that challenge,” Toews said. “Ready for that excitement. You can’t win a gold medal without going through a few nail-biters like that so we’ve got to be ready for it.
“That’s what it’s all about.”
Ryan Getzlaf enjoyed seeing the kind of speed that was evident from the drop of the puck. In beating Norway and Austria, Canada flashed some of that but hasn’t yet been in that kind of fast-paced game.
Babcock and Toews appreciated the drama of Russia’s disallowed goal in the third period, Sergei Bobrovsky’s breakaway save on Patrick Kane in overtime and then, of course, the shootout that was Oshie’s showcase.
“He put on a show,” Toews said. “Just watching him with a smile on his face and how relaxed he looked, I think he was almost 100 per cent sure every time that he was going to score. Pretty amazing with that pressure to send that same guy out six times in a row.”
The entire game was a preview of what’s to come for Canada as this becomes a one-game elimination tournament.
“I loved it,” Babcock said. “I thought it was gratifying. When you see other teams being good, you’re excited because you came here to compete. We’re going to have compete.”
Patrick Marleau knows from watching U.S.-Russia in person for two periods and then on television the rest of the way that “the intensity’s just going to keep ramping up.” After facing Finland Sunday to wrap up preliminary round, Canada will either get a bye into the quarter-finals or have to play against an overmatched opponent in a qualification game.
After that, it gets serious.
“Just get your own team prepared and try to maximize each and every day,” Babcock said. “That’s what I do.”