TORONTO • Ryan Getzlaf does not remember a single thing from Canada last matchup with Russia in a tournament featuring the best hockey players in the world.
“I could not even tell what the score was, or when we play or what happened,” said Getzlaf.
Canada coach Mike Babcock, however, remembers the nerves of his players, who daily. Team Canada was nervous at this point of the Olympic Games in 2010 in quarterfinal matchup with the Russians. The group was four years removed from seventh place disaster in 2006 games, trying to reclaim the gold on home soil in Vancouver.
Any tension quickly evaporate. Canada pumped six goals past Evgeni Nabakov during the first 24 minutes and won 7 to 3 Getzlaf had three points in just over 10 minutes.
Canada is now the plant as it prepares to host Russia in Saturday’s semi-finals at the IIHF World Hockey Championship, the winners of the 13th straight best-on-best games dating to 2010. The Canadians rolled through the preliminary round in Toronto, outscoring their Czech, American and European enemies 14-3, trailing after only 89 seconds.
Russia is the biggest threat. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko leading a dangerous top line with Evgeni Malkin, Nikita Kucherov and Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin there too.
“For us, there can be some occasional moments of how dangerous some of these players,” said Ryan O’Reilly. “You give them the opportunity to go to create and go bury and make us pay.”
Canada outlasted Russia in pre-tournament play 3-2 overtime win. Although players on both sides did not think it offered much insight into Saturday’s matchup, there was a pattern of how Canada could fall on Saturday: Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 45 of 48 shots to give his team a chance.
All but two players have at least one point for Canada so far. Nine players scored and Canada will face Russia’s inexperienced defense.
Canada has evolved into a wrecking ball in the big games from the thorough destruction of Russia in 2010. Their last loss best-on-best game came against the USA in the preliminary round of the Olympics in Vancouver.
“It’s just expected to win,” said forward Logan Couture. “When you come into action and you throw on the Canadian jersey and a sense of expectation in the room it is that we want to win and we’re here to win. I think the big games bring out the best of all.”