For Canada, the final weekend at the 2015 IIHF World Championship has finally come as the preliminary round and even the first playoff game were to a great degree a cake walk. Domination of this sort at this tournament hasn’t been seen in recent years.
Matt Duchene of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche is participating at his fourth World Championship in total, where he has 12 points in nine contests. He shared a few thoughts on competing at the international level prior to Canada’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic.
Hockey’s Future: You’re one of the top scorers at this tournament with 11 points in eight games. What does that mean to you at this point?
Matt Duchene: It doesn’t mean anything unless we win the gold medal. If we do win it, then I did my job. If we don’t, I didn’t. I know that’s how my teammates are looking at things too.
HF: How has this tournament been different for you than the other times you’ve played at a World Championship?
MD: In other years, Team Canada had a lot of adversity. We haven’t had to face that as much this year. The Sweden game was one instance of adversity, but we passed that test with flying colors. That’s a really good thing going forward. We know that even if we get down 3-0 in the playoffs, we can come back. And that’s a good thing. It happened early on and can benefit us down the stretch. This hasn’t always been the case in prior tournaments.
HF: Have you been enjoying Prague and being here in the Czech Republic in this warm spring?
MD: I’m loving it. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to in Europe for sure. I’ve been taking it in with every opportunity and having a lot of fun over here.
Teammate Sean Couturier, just 22 years old, just completed his fourth season of NHL hockey with the Philadelphia Flyers and for the first time is playing for Canada at a World Championship. After 37 regular season points in the NHL, Sean has six points in nine WC contests.
HF: Nitty gritty playoff time is here. What are your thoughts moving forward?
SC: It’ll be pretty exciting. The crowd in this town will be looking for their team to gun us down and they’ll take it to us. We’ve seen how much these people love their hockey and their Czech team. We’re going to have to be ready – and we will be.
HF: How have you been enjoying this WC experience?
SC: Everything’s been going pretty well. Every time I get to go out there, I just try to keep it simple, work hard, get a good forecheck going, create turnovers and get pucks to the net. I think that’s been going pretty well thus far.
HF: You’re one of the younger guys on this team. What did you think when you saw the names you’d be playing with over here?
SC: For sure it’s impressive. It’s just about an Olympic team. It was very exciting to get to be part of it. It’s a great experience and it’s so much fun to be here and be part of it.
HF: The other day you played and beat Austria. That country doesn’t produce many NHL players, but this tournament’s team does have a good one and he’s your Philadelphia teammate Michael Raffl. Have you guys been keeping in touch over the course of the tournament?
SC: Yep, a little bit here and there. He’s a great guy and a lot of fun. He’s pretty much the best player for their country and I think both he and Austria did really well at this tournament.
HF: As for yourself, what steps in development did you take in your third full NHL season?
SC: I learned a lot, because it’s been an up and down year for my whole team. Just having gone through that has taught me a lot and will benefit me down the line. Next year, both I and the team will have to find a way to be much more consistent and learn how to be better overall.
One Canadian player thoroughly enjoying his time here at this World Championship has been Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, who is coming off a season where he put up a whopping 53 points from the blueline. This was incredibly impressive considering he was playing only his second full NHL season. He’s also collected five points in nine games here at the World Championship.
HF: Tyson, most players would rather be playing NHL playoff hockey right now, but being part of this Team Canada at this tournament has got to be seen as a really nice consolation prize. Your thoughts thus far…
TB: Obviously this isn’t the end goal when you start the NHL season. You work hard all winter long to get to the playoffs and then fight for a Stanley Cup. But when this opportunity arose, I was super excited to get over here. To see the talent and will of these guys, and how good of a team and group of guys we’ve got here, it’s just downright exciting. We have a special team and we want to bring the gold home.
HF: It’s one thing to have a bunch of good names on paper, but you guys are more than getting the job done. What’s the feeling like for you to go out and achieve the results you’ve been getting?
TB: It’s a lot of fun. So often we’ve just been able to come in waves and back opponents off. We’ve got so much skill on this team and you know, we do things the right way and then the skill just takes over. Everybody’s able to do their thing. It’s a lot of fun to be out there on the ice and play with guys bringing this level of ability with them. I’m learning a lot and heck, it’s quite an honor to wear this uniform.
HF: Back in junior hockey, you played for the Kelowna Rockets. Have you heard that they won the WHL championship?
TB: I did hear about that. They swept Brandon there in the finals. It’s exciting for them. They had a good team the past few years and now got it done this year. Hopefully they can now make some noise in the Memorial Cup and win one.
HF: I had a chance to watch your father Len Barrie play in Frankfurt for a couple of seasons back in the day and now he’s very involved with Victoria in the BCHL. What’s your relationship with your father from a hockey standpoint?
TB: He was my coach throughout minor hockey. He coached me for eight years. He’s been the greatest influence in my hockey career and I still talk to him after every game. He’s very much involved, but he’s super positive. He never gets down on me and he’s been a great role model to me and piece to have in my development. He’s been through it all and it’s nice to be able to lean back on his wisdom.
HF: Is he here in Prague to see this event?
TB: Yep, he’s here in attendance.
HF: And how are you enjoying Prague?
TB: Oh it’s great. It’s a beautiful city. I had a chance to get out and walk around it a few times. I’ve seen some of the old churches and walked over the Charles Bridge downtown. It’s just lovely and the people have been very hospitable. Nothing but good memories so far.
HF: You came out of juniors pegged as an offensive defenseman and now that’s exactly what you’ve become – and quite an effective one at that! Is this something you’ve always expected to happen or are you a bit surprised yourself that the success has come so early in your career?
TB: Yes and no. Coming out of juniors, people were questioning whether I’d be big enough. But it’s always been a dream of mine to play and be successful in the NHL. I’ve been working hard on the defensive side of my game as well and it’s become a dream come true. Hopefully, it’ll turn out to be a long career with more upward development.
Follow Chapin Landvogt on Twitter via @Csomichapin