Canada aims for perfection

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

HALIFAX -- Juggernaut? Or not?

It's always dangerous to tackle the topic of a team being unbeatable in a tournament that no host country has won since the Soviet Union in 1986.

But the juggernaut questions were coming with the same sort of force as Dany Heatley, Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf yesterday after Team Canada finished preliminary play at the IIHF World Championship with a command performance 6-3 win in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"We know if we play the right way, we can beat anybody," said coach Ken Hitchcock.

Team Canada was relaxed and confident from the opening face-off to defeat the team they beat for the gold medal last year in Moscow - the team that handed Canada its last loss in the Worlds in the 2007 bronze medal game in Latvia.

The Canadians now have a 15-game winning streak and will have to run the table for the second year in a row if they're to win a second straight gold medal.

Canada outscored opponents 47-22 in winning all nine games in Moscow last year and has gone through the first six games this year with 36 goals scored and only 10 against.

Shane Doan, the captain of both clubs, said it matters to the players on this team to run the table at home.

"It does. We didn't want to back our way in to the elimination round," he said of tomorrow's quarter-final against either Norway or Latvia before proceeding to Quebec City for the medal round.

"We know the Americans are a tough team and we didn't want to play them again. And we knew how bad Finland wanted to beat us, so it was important to end this round with a win," added Doan.

"Canadians expect our teams to win against everybody. With this team, if we play the game we can play, we're capable of beating everybody."

Patrick Sharp said you could see Team Canada's confidence surge as they took to the ice for their biggest game of the tournament so far.

"We're getting better and better. I think the big win against Germany (10-1) calmed guys down and now we're playing Team Canada hockey," said Sharp.

The prime minster had barely taken his seat when Ryan Getzlaf brought him out of it by splitting the defence and flipping one past the pad of Niklas Backstrom only 33 seconds into the game.

"If you want to beat Canada, you can't start like that," said Backstrom, the Minnesota Wild netminder.

A giveaway by Heatley on a power play resulted in a breakaway goal for Antti Pihlstrom five minutes later. But Doan got that one back, also shorthanded, before the end of the period.

The Finns were taking the game to Canada early in the second and that's where Hitchcock said his team grabbed the game by the throat with goals by Heatley and Sharp - and proved to the world if they play it their way, nobody's going to beat them.

"We got a big push against us at the start of the second and the whole team turned it up," he said.

The Finns managed a couple of meaningless goals in the third while Doan scored his second of the game and Heatley his second of the night and ninth of the tournament to go with a tournament-leading 13 points with 1:58 remaining to send Harper home happy.

Nobody managed to get a juggernaut or unbeatable quote from the prime minister, but the man who might be able to run for the top office in Finland was available for comment.

"If you want to beat a team like Canada you have to play a perfect game and we clearly didn't do that," said Teemu Selanne.

"Team Canada can score from everywhere. They have unbelievable players," said Sami Lepisto.

"Canada is so skilled, so talented and so big. You are not going to score seven goals against them. You can't give up six goals on 22 shots against Canada," said Finland's Canadian coach Doug Shedden.

But unbeatable?

Not in this tournament.

It was just the other day Canada scored with less than four minutes to beat Norway 2-1.

Juggernaut? Not so fast.


Videos

Photos