Babcock wants win, not miracles
Calgary Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr sent out a Twitter message on Saturday that read: "If the Americans win, they'll probably make a movie about it, so we don't want to see that happen."
Canadian head coach Mike Babcock remarked on the eve of the 2010 Olympic men’s hockey gold-medal final between Canada and the United States that he agreed with Regehr.
"I like his way of thinking," said Babcock, who has seen the film Miracle that chronicled the improbable run of the United States men’s hockey team to gold at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. "My kids thought it was great. I’m not so sure it was that great."
Even U.S. defenceman Ryan Suter, whose father Bob played on that Cinderella team 30 years ago, stated that his team is not drawing much inspiration from the 1980 team.
"I don’t think it is as big as people make it out to be," Suter said. "We’re trying to win for ourselves."
The U.S. is considered the home team and will get last change.
While in Vancouver, Canada has practised in the late afternoon on most days to get accustomed to their 4:30 p.m. PT start times for its first four games.
The Canadians didn’t skate the day before the 6:30 p.m. PT semifinal match against Slovakia. On Saturday, however, the Canadians skated at noon, the same time as the gold medal final on Sunday.
"I don’t think it would matter if the game was at midnight. Let’s get at it," Canadian forward Jarome Iginla said.
Babcock on the weight of winning for Canada: "Don’t get me wrong, we’d like to do it for the country. We’d like to win if for everyone involved. But first we want to do it for ourselves."
Niedermayer, 36, was asked why he shaved his gray whiskers on the eve of the gold-medal game, "Just so I didn’t look like everyone else’s Dad out there."
A prankster posing as Miller got himself on MSNBC and guaranteed a win over Canada. The network apologized for being fooled.
If Canada can turn the tables on its North American rivals, maybe the casting call can go out for an actor to play Babcock in a Canadian flick. After all, if Canada wins gold on Sunday he would become the first coach in hockey history to win Olympic gold, a world championship and a Stanley Cup. He also has world junior and Canadian university crowns to his credit.
This isn’t Babcock’s only motivation, however. He would like to beat U.S. general manager Brian Burke because when Burke took over the Anaheim Ducks he wouldn’t renew Babcock’s contract. Burke wanted to bring in his own man, Randy Carlyle.
But in order for Babcock, who was there live to see skip Kevin Martin and the men’s curling team take gold on Saturday, to make history the Canadians must solve that scrawny 6-foot-2, 175-pound wall known as U.S. goalie Ryan Miller. Miller enters the championship game with a tournament-leading .954 save percentage (103 saves out of 108 shots) and hasn’t allowed a goal in his last 111 minutes and 38 seconds.
"As much as is made about goaltending stealing games in this tournament, a goaltender really does reflect his team," Miller said. "If you guys sat down and broke down our film you can see our team is playing really well. A prime example is the last game against Finland."
Babcock remarked that Canadian assistant coach Lindy Ruff, who coaches Miller with the Buffalo Sabres, knows all of Miller’s weaknesses. The Canadians talked about getting more traffic, screens and deflections on the brilliant netminder than they did in the 5-3 U.S. win in the preliminary round last Sunday.
Ruff and Miller have not had any contact with each other in Vancouver.
"We shared the same flight out here," Miller said. "I got him a sausage McMuffin at McDonalds while he made sure he had a seat on the flight. I told him that was going to be the last favour I was going to do for him."
Scott Niedermayer, the laid-back Canadian captain believes that his team can’t get caught up in how well Miller has played and the roll that the undefeated U.S. team has been on.
"We have to go out and play our game as well as we can," Niedermayer said. "You can’t make them not play well. You have to go out and make it difficult for them. We need to play well defensively and skate hard make it tough in their end."
On the other side of the rink, U.S. centre Ryan Kesler proclaimed he would share all the holes to exploit of his Vancouver Canucks teammate Roberto Luongo, Canada’s goalie.
Young Canadian centre Jonathan Toews, who will play a key role in shutting down the U.S. line of Paul Stastny, Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner, was asked what Canada learned from its first outing against the U.S.
"There is a lot we want to differently," Toews said. "There was a lot we did well in that game. But there were a lot of mistakes made. We gave them a lot of chances. They didn’t really have to work for it. Any bit of success they will get, they will have to earn it. We’ll make them pay the price. We want to play much more intelligently on the defensive side of the puck."
Canadian defenceman Chris Pronger agreed with his teammate and added, "We want to get off to a better start. We want to come out just as hard, if not harder, than we did against Russia. We understand that the way they want to play is similar to the way we want to play.
"We also want to come out of our end a little bit cleaner. At points in that game it was a little bit hectic. We also want to continue to chip pucks into their end and be physical. We want to make them come 200 feet. We need to limit our turnovers because they are a team that can transition very quickly."
Niedermayer summed up the situation best. "It’s a big game, probably can’t get any bigger," he said. "It’s a special time to be a good hockey player."