Head coach Claude Julien might want to show his Canadian men’s hockey team the tape of the 2014 Olympic gold-medal game before Wednesday’s quarterfinal against Sweden at the Beijing Games.
An assistant coach under Mike Babcock in Sochi, Julien watched the Canadians put the clamps on the Swedes in a 3-0 win as Carey Price had to make just 24 saves, completing a convincing run to gold for the red and white.
A similar effort — albeit minus NHLers — would come in handy if Canada plans on trying to make a real bid to win Olympic gold for the first time since that day in Russia eight years ago.
Based on Tuesday’s performance, that seems like a stretch.
A pedestrian 7-2 win against heavily overmatched China on Tuesday sends Canada to the final eight for a game against the Swedes on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Canada’s second win over the host side in as many days — first win was 5-0 on Sunday — was expected to be a formality. But the Canadians looked terrible out of the starting gate and were lucky they were not trailing after giving up two breakaways and a penalty shot in the first six minutes — Spencer Foo was stopped on the latter by Matt Tomkins.
The Canadian goaltender had to make several point-blank saves in the first period, preserving a 2-1 lead. The only goal he gave up in the opening 20 minutes came after a bad giveaway by first overall pick Owen Power.
At the end of the first, equally strong China goaltender Jeremy Smith was hurt and had to be helped off the ice. Television cameras showed him being wheeled out of the dressing room on a stretcher during the intermission.
Paris O’Brien replaced Smith and was not as good. The Canadians did play better after the first period, but they by no means ran China out of the rink.
Canada was dominant on the power play, scoring four times. That’s the main reason the game wasn’t closer against a Chinese team making its Olympic debut and featuring 11 Canadians — the squad using essentially the same lineup as a China-based KHL club team that is last in that league’s standings.
Adam Tambellini and Jordan Weal scored two goals apiece for Canada, while Eric Staal, Jack McBain and Eric O’Dell added singles.
Cory Kane, a California native, scored both goals for China.
Sweden earned a bye to the quarterfinals as the best second-place team in the three groups, finishing with two wins (3-2 over Latvia and 4-1 over Slovakia) and a 4-3 overtime loss to Finland after blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period against its biggest rival.
Canada’s lone loss in four games was a 4-2 setback against the United States, but all its wins have come against light competition — China twice and a one-win German team that was eliminated with a 4-0 loss to Slovakia on Tuesday.
Lucas Wallmark, who has 187 games of NHL experience, leads the Swedish attack with four goals.
A key for Canada could be drawing penalties. Sweden has the worst penalty-killing percentage in the 12-team tournament (60 per cent) after giving up four goals on 10 opportunities.
The good news for Canada — and everybody else, really — is that the tournament appears to be wide open.
The Russians are the reigning Olympic champs, but haven’t been consistent in Beijing — 1-0 and 2-0 wins over Switzerland and Denmark, respectively, along with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Czech Republic.
Germany has made an early exit after winning silver in Pyeongchang four years ago.
Canada captured bronze at the last Olympics — also played without NHLers — and won last year’s World Championship.
Plucky Denmark has been the best story of the tournament, reaching the quarterfinals in its Olympic debut. Still, the Danes will be be heavy underdogs against the Russians in the quarterfinals.
The Americans were the only team with a perfect record in the preliminary round. They brought a young team, opting to focus on the college ranks.
If their success continues and Canada can’t make a run, many will question the Canadians’ strategy of going heavier with European-based pros.
OTHER QUALIFYING ROUND RESULTS
Slovakia 4, Germany 0
Denmark 3, Latvia 2
Switzerland 4, Czech Republic 2
QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE (WEDNESDAY)
No. 1 United States vs. No. 8 Slovakia, 11:10 p.m. ET (Tuesday)
No. 3 Russia vs. No. 6 Denmark, 1 a.m. ET
No. 2 Finland vs. No. 10 Switzerland, 3:40 a.m. ET
No. 4 Sweden vs. No. 5 Canada, 8:30 a.m. ET