Team Canada answers the bell

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VANCOUVER — This is no place for a nervous person, much less a nervous hockey team. And finally Team Canada didn't look like one.

Ready for the Russians? You couldn't write that.

But Mike Babcock's team looks a lot more prepared to play than they did in the first three games of the tournament.

When it was go on or go home, Team Canada moved on to play Russia Wednesday in the quarterfinal that will leave one of the expected top two teams out of the tournament before the medal round.

Finally, Canada looked a lot more like Canada.

It was a sudden-death game against winless Germany resulting from a fractured format introduced to the Olympic hockey tournament this year and there is a definite danger of reading too much into Canada's 8-2 win.

But there's also room for the players to find positives.

“It was the first time facing elimination and we faced that intensity and that excitement and we dealt with it,” said Jarome Iginla after a two-goal game during which he and Eric Staal were moved to join Sidney Crosby on the top line.

“I'm sure it will be a physical and intense game against the Russians and I can't wait. It's not a game we planned on playing but I think this was good for us as a team.”

Babcock described the looming showdown with Russia as “fun” — and having a No. 1 line is a big part of it.

“Sid was jumping,” Babcock said. “That line was really good. Staal was very effective. That group was real focused and played very well the whole night. And we were able to keep their minutes down because we got the lead, which was very important to us.”

Crosby also liked the way Iginla fit.

“He created chances and buried the puck in the net. It felt good. I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Crosby showed the kind of finish Canada has been seeking when he scored early in the third period. But that was against Germany. Now Russia.

“It's going to be a tough game. It's going to be a challenge,” he said. “It's something everybody has been thinking about all Olympics. I'm expecting it to be a pretty incredible atmosphere. I don't expect us to be intimidated at all.”

Canadian fans were most certainly there Tuesday for Roberto Luongo, replacing Martin Brodeur as Canada's national netminder for the rest of this tournament. Behind the net in one end, a fan held up a giant cardboard cutout of Luongo's head.

“You can't go wrong-o with Luongo,” it read.

There were dozens more like it.

Way more signs than shots on goal. Bobby Loo was required to stop only four in the first period. Every time he touched the puck the Vancouver crowd cheered.

There was a sign for Crosby, too.

“Support 'The Cros,' take off your bras.”

Didn't work. But the line did.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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