Canada stormed into the semi-finals of the World Cup of Hockey by beating the USA 4-2. The US actually took an early lead through Ryan McDonagh, before two Matt Duchene goals and one from Corey Parry had the Canadians 3-1 up before the end of the first period. Patrice Bergeron had Canada 4-1 in front in the second period as they took full control. TJ Oshie did pull one back for the Americans, but it was too little too late.
The result leaves the USA with no hope of reaching the semi-finals, as they also lost their opening game to the Czechs.
After the game, coaches Mike Babcock of Canada and the USA’s John Tortorella fielded questions from the assembled media;
Mike, maybe a little slower start than you wanted; obviously got down. How did you feel about the response?
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I just thought we were tentative early, tight and tentative and didn’t execute very good.
I thought we had a real good response. Obviously our fourth line was great, real big goal. They got heavy, line got heavy and we got the one off the backboard with the missed slide shot and that was a good play. And then pairs go in the net right away, real good set, forecheck. They turned it over and gave it to us. That gave us an opportunity to be in a pretty comfortable spot, so I thought that was good.
I liked our first ten minutes of the third. There was times tonight that I didn’t think we were even close to being as good as we’re capable of being. But it was an opportunity to get better today, and now we’re set up to play more games in the tournament, which is real positive. And we’ve got to take some steps because we weren’t as good as we’re capable of being tonight.
What are your impressions of Duchene, Thornton and O’Reilly and their chemistry so far in the first couple of games?
MIKE BABCOCK: Good. I mean, Duchene just good flat out could skate tonight. Probably should have played him more or whatever. But I thought they were real good.
We struggled for two periods, we were 29 percent after two periods in the face-off circle, so we spent a lot of time chasing. But a guy like Duchene can really skate, and that’s why we have him in. He gives us good speed, and obviously he answered the bell here tonight.
Quick turnaround. You beat a team you have such an emotional investment against because of the rivalry, but now you’re playing a team that’s never existed before but obviously lots of respect. The quick turnaround and getting your guys there?
MIKE BABCOCK: Yeah, it is what it is. I think there’s back to backs in the tournament. I think other teams had to play back to backs, but they all played the entire team if I’m not mistaken; is that right? So this is the only one that’s back to back fresh. I don’t know how that happened, but so here we are, we’ve got an opportunity tomorrow, and I look forward to it.
Looking at the results between Canada and the U.S. over the last six years, is Canada just better? Are they just the better team?
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, that’s up to you guys. I don’t worry about that stuff. We just come to the event, we prepare for the games, we try to get better every day, and we try to win in the end. And being Canadian, you’re greedy. You think it’s your right to find a way to get ‘er done.
Now, these teams are very, very good and very, very tight. When I look at the tournament, there’s good teams in the tournament. I picked my top four already. We’ll see if I’m right or if I’m wrong. But we’re fortunate today to have an opportunity, it looks like that we’re going to get to play more games. That’s the way I look at it.
Talk about the evolution of how much pressure the neutral zone and the offensive zone, just the evolution of that system and how it’s come to work so well for you.
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I just think good players, sometimes we get way too caught up talking about structure and systems and all that, and it’s just the players are better. I had that same structure and we finished dead last last year. I was the worst coach in the National Hockey League, if you remember correct. So let’s put things in perspective. It’s called players, really good players. And when you’re fortunate that they let you coach really good players, you look like a pretty good coach sometimes.
But our guys worked hard and they’re detail oriented and they want to get better. And they’re about winning and they know who they’re playing for, and they take it seriously. And we’re just excited to have more opportunity.
You said you had your final four; was the U.S. in your final four? And secondly, on the early goal, did have a Vlasic shoot wide intentionally because it sure looked like he did?
MIKE BABCOCK: You’ll have to ask Pickles about that. And the first question I’m not going to bother answering.
Do you have your mind made up for what you’re going to do in goal tomorrow?
MIKE BABCOCK: Yeah, Craw is going to start tomorrow and Holt is going to back up.
Will you have any changes in your line-up for the next game?
MIKE BABCOCK: Yeah, I haven’t decided that because I don’t know medically on that yet, so we’ll just wait. We’ll see the therapy people in the morning, we’ll discuss that and then we’ll make decisions. I would expect the guys that didn’t play to be in.
The first five minutes you guys were off to a hot start. What can you explain how things happened after the five minutes?
JOHN TORTORELLA: Well, I think there’s some self-inflicted wounds there. Going into tonight’s game, I think it was very important that if they were going to get something, they had to earn it. I thought we had a good start, but we gave them a couple of freebies there, and you just can’t do that. They surged, and we were trying to catch up through most of the rest of the game.
In hindsight, do you think maybe you would change the makeup of this roster at all?
JOHN TORTORELLA: No.
What did you say to the guys afterwards? And is there a way to describe how disappointing it is to be in this situation?
JOHN TORTORELLA: I haven’t spoken to the team. I didn’t go in after the game. I don’t go in after games, win or lose. I’m sure they’re thoroughly disappointed, but I haven’t talked to them.
How disappointing is it for you and your staff to be basically done two games into this tournament?
JOHN TORTORELLA: Yeah, it’s disappointing, frustrating. All different types of emotions. Yeah, I think we let some people down. It’s on my watch. I certainly feel responsible for that. So yeah, it’s really disappointing.
If it isn’t the roster, as critics like to say, what was the problem, or what should you have done differently?
JOHN TORTORELLA: Well, I’m still looking for us to generate offense. I think we have some good offensive players on that roster. I think we have some jam in that roster. I think we can play a lot of different ways.
We have not played well offensively. We have not made enough offensive plays as a group. There’s no one particular person, but as a group I just don’t think we have been consistent enough, when really quite honestly, I think there were some plays to be made. I said it after Game 1, and I see it tonight. We have some chances to make plays, and we just did not complete that. Hit some posts. I don’t think we got a whole bunch of puck luck, but we didn’t play well enough. We didn’t play well enough.
But you guys can beat up the roster all you want. You look at some of those players on our roster, there are some pretty good skill players, and we just simply did not do enough offensively. And we self-inflicted quite a bit in the two games. We gave some easy goals, and you just can’t do that in a short tournament.
You said yesterday we need our best players to be our best players. How would you assess the play of your best players tonight?
JOHN TORTORELLA: We lost. It wasn’t good enough.
I know you probably don’t want to use this as an excuse, but how much different or better do you think this team could have been if you had access to the 13 guys who are playing on Team North America right now?
JOHN TORTORELLA: Well, it’s an interesting tournament that way. I think there is definitely a fantastic future coming here, not only for the USA, I think for Canada, also. There’s some pretty good players coming through for Canada. But yeah, there are some good young kids there that I think — I think they’ll bring some juice to the program, as you can see right through the tournament here as the way they played. Anxious to see them play the rest of the tournament.
Were you ever able to get back — the first pre-tournament game in Columbus, you guys played with so much tenacity and really went after them. Do you feel like you’ve ever gotten back to that stage so far?
JOHN TORTORELLA: Well, it’s not so much the tenacity. I mean, that’s part of our team. It’s forechecking to develop offense. It’s backing a team off and then getting a chance maybe to make a play off the rush. We were not consistent there, and that was — as I said, I don’t think we created enough offense, obviously, with just one goal in the two games, and then couple with that, I think at times we gave up free goals.
I think we cured some of the odd man rush stuff, but we have chances to break out, and we just blow up tonight, and that changes the whole complexion of the game. I thought we started well. I thought the guys were prepared, but we blow up, self-inflicted, and they surged, and we had no answer. We kept trying to catch up the rest of the game and just couldn’t get it done.