It's Sutter hockey

Paul Friesen, Staff Reporter

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

Grand Forks, N.D. -- The fan who stuck his head through the wall of blue curtains surrounding the media conference area here yesterday said it all.

"Sutter, you rule!" the guy bellowed, as Team Canada head coach Brent Sutter stood up to leave the podium.

He rules, all right. And that's why there wasn't a single player gushing about yesterday's 7-3 win over Slovakia.

Not because it wasn't a work of art -- led by Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby, Canada scored some beauties -- but because it wasn't a Sutter win.

You see, Sutter teams don't have their foot on the opposition's throat, only to release the pressure.

Afternoon nap

By the middle of the second period, the Canucks were ready to run the Slovaks out of the rink. But a minute into the third, 4-0 had become 5-3, and this so-called Dream Team looked like it was doing just that on an ill-timed afternoon nap.

That's why, if you'd been beamed down to the luxurious Ralph Engelstad Arena just for the post-game analysis, you would have sworn the Canucks opened the tourney by hanging a big, fat L on the board.

Sutter actually accused some of his heavy hitters of "cheating a little bit" after Canada built up a lead, and thinking "too much offensively and not being responsible and accountable defensively."

"I'm not trying to be negative," Sutter said. "But the point I'm trying to make is if our guys play within themselves ... and pay attention to detail, we seem to have some pretty good success."

This is a guy who just watched his team out-shoot the opposition 36-23 and win by four goals, going away.

Maybe it was the line of questioning from the media, but things sounded almost as dire when you listened to the players.

"We have to make sure we keep the game tight," Crosby said. "And that we keep playing defensively as we did at the start of the game, and can't make little errors."

This is a guy who'd just scored two goals and set up Bergeron for another, serving notice he may be ready to dominate this thing as few 17-year-olds have.

And then there was Bergeron, who calmly stated, "There's nothing to panic (over), nothing to be scared of."

This from Canada's best player on the day, a guy who contributed two goals and two assists.

Remain calm, people. No, Canada didn't play the perfect game. But it is 1-0, which was the plan going into today.

Actually, the team's reaction is a good sign. Because if it came away from that game puffed up like a peacock, that would be a sign of trouble.

Sutter won't have it, though.

Those games against the Finns and Swiss in Winnipeg last week? That's Sutter hockey. Out-shoot the opposition 40-10 or so, don't give up a goal and make the other guys wish they were playing straight time.

Not enough Slovaks were knocked on their keisters or pasted to the boards yesterday. And Canada took a few too many dumb penalties, such as Bergeron drawing a kneeing call with 4:24 left, giving the Slovaks a two-man advantage.

But the No. 1 lesson taken from this one: fight the natural tendency to relax with a lead.

Crosby and Bergeron, on the ice for two Slovakian goals, admitted that may have happened.

"Maybe a little bit of human nature," Crosby said. "But not in this tournament. You can't do it. You have to get in good habits."

"When you score four or five goals ... in the back of your mind, I don't know, you let it go a little bit," added Bergeron. "You just have to be sharp and never let go."

Like a pit bull on a ham bone.

That is, after all, Sutter hockey.


Videos

Photos