'We're the best team in the world:' Confident Gushue ready for quarter-final match against U.S.
'It can be daunting to know if we play our best, they’re not going to have a chance'
LAS VEGAS — If Brad Gushue and his rink intend on defending their world championship title in 2018, they must navigate a more difficult path to granite greatness than a year ago in Edmonton.
But despite struggling at times this week, Gushue says his St. John's, N.L., team will hit a different gear in the playoffs.
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"I believe we're the best team in the world. If you look at the last three years, the results undoubtedly prove that," Gushue said.
"If we play our best tomorrow these teams are going to have to play their best to keep up. And when they go to bed Friday night, they'll have to think about that. It can be daunting to know if we play our best, they're not going to have a chance."
Canada finished third in the round robin after posting a 9-3 record. Sweden's Niklas Edin finished in a tie for first place with the upstart team from Scotland. Both countries only lost once, but because Sweden beat Scotland, they get the first seed while Scotland places second.
The world curling playoff format has changed. Unlike previous years when the top four teams advanced to the playoff round, now the top six move on.
The first two seeds, Sweden and Scotland, move directly into Saturday's semifinal games.
Canada will face the United States in one of two Saturday morning quarter-final games.
"The U.S. has been playing strong down the stretch," Gushue said. "They're an interesting team to be on the ice with and watch the way they interact and talk out there."
Redemption will be on the minds of Canada after its round-robin loss to the Americans.
"I think when the bell rings tomorrow we'll be tough to play against. We're still the best team in the world even though we're not at this point firing on all cylinders. But that can change and if it does tomorrow we can win this thing," Gushue said.
The U.S. won five consecutive games to finish the event and sneak into the playoffs after starting 1-6.
The other quarter-final has Korea playing Norway.
The young Scottish team skipped by Bruce Mouat has been on a roll all week.
They put teams on notice early in Vegas when they defeated Gushue in the second game of the bonspiel. They only lost once and are brimming with confidence heading into the semifinal.
"That win over Canada set the tone for us and moving forward in this championship," Mouat said. "A lot of Canadians might have lifted an eyebrow or two after that performance. That's what we wanted. We're here to play."
Unlike some teams who have talked about Vegas being somewhat of a distracting place to play, Mouat and his team have been soaking up the sun, pool and party.
It seems to be working.
"I love it. I think it's great. I don't think it's a distraction. I think each team has the ability to separate themselves from it all."
It still feels a little surreal for Mouat who is making his first world championship appearance.
"I'm trying to keep my feet on the ground. I think it's a special moment for me. This is next level. I enjoy being here and hope I'm here for a while."
Gushue isn't a fan of the new playoff format. He says six teams in the playoffs in a 13 team event is too much.
"To have almost 50 per cent of the field get in, you saw it at the women's, teams at 6-6 make it," Gushue said. "It's really rewarding mediocrity."
Fans of curling are used to seeing what is called a page playoff system — the top two teams play one another with the winner going directly to the final and the third and fourth place teams playing in a quasi-quarter-final game. The winner of that game then plays the loser of the one versus two game.
In other words, Gushue says there is an advantage to playing well during the week.
Now, Gushue and his rink are up against the 6-6 Americans.
"All of the sudden you need two good days. Get into the playoffs with a .500 record and have two of the best days of you life and you're a world champion. It seems odd to me," Gushue said.