Leon T Switzer/ Icon SMI)
Hall of Fame defenseman Kevin Lowe has had anything but a quiet spring, once again taking over the task of putting together Team Canada’s roster for the World Championship. With his Edmonton Oilers not having made the Stanley Cup playoffs, Mr. Lowe was easy to spot at the U-18 World Championship a few times before bringing over the men’s team for a few test games prior to tournament play in Helsinki. Things looked very promising for Team Canada, which marched through the preliminary round with an OT loss to the USA being the only blemish in heading to a first place finish.
That all changed in the quarterfinals this afternoon when Canada surprisingly gave up a 3-2 lead late in the third period to suffer a shocking 4-3 loss to Slovakia.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Kevin Lowe after the unexpected turn of events.
Hockey’s Future: Every year, Team Canada brings a line-up to the World Championships that, on paper, should be competing for gold. Often there are a few big victories along the way and things are looking like they’re going according to plan. Then a game like today’s 4-3 loss to Slovakia in the Quarterfinals takes place. How do you explain this trend?
Kevin Lowe: I think it’s best explained by the emphasis on playing flawless hockey. Having a game plan and sticking to it, knowing that, last year for example, the team played well and deserved to win maybe even more so than the game this year. Well, that team made a couple of mistakes and the puck ended up in the net. This year we again felt that we deserved to win the hockey game – no question about that – but again we made a few mistakes and the puck ended up in the net. What we’ve learned from this process in recent years is the raw necessity to play flawless hockey.
HF: Do you think the players have, one way or another, problems adjusting to the differences here, most notably the size of the ice surface and the style of officiating?
KL: I think when the boys first come over they do, but by the time of the elimination games, I don’t think that type of thing plays a role. By then we’re over it. We’ll have adjusted to the ice size and the rules and whatnot, but it always takes us about 4 or 5 games to get it down. Still, we had enough games and we also had the couple of exhibition games. You know, our players are used to playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs or North American style series where you have a best-of-seven scenario. In a series like that, if you make a mistake and the puck ends up in the net, you have other games to compensate for that. So when you’re here, you have it in your mind that you’ve got to play – case in point – that flawless hockey I referred to.
If our coaching staff were to now have time to analyze the 60 minutes today, they wouldn’t find many mistakes, but there were a few critical and elementary mistakes that led to the puck ending up in the back of our net. Those are all avoidable. They are avoidable through the basic understanding of how to win a hockey game. If we had a chance to play again tomorrow, we’d learn from them. But I guess you could say that that’s the beauty of this tournament.
HF: How about the tournament’s new format, where you play every team in the group. What did you think of it?
KL: I liked it and I like the quarterfinals the way they are. I don’t know if they were set up like this because of the whole Stockholm and Helsinki thing or not, but I like the fact that you play the first quarterfinal game against a team you’ve already played against. It’s a better way to have things. It’s just fairer to not have to face a team you know nothing about right when the playoffs begin. I like it that way.
HF: I’ve got one last golden question that just has to be asked now that the tournament has unfortunately come to an end for Canada: How did Ryan Murray do here playing with men, especially in light of the big summer he’s heading into?
KL: Oh, I think he did well. He did as well as could have been expected. We never anticipated having him here in Helsinki. We had him over to play a bit and gain some experience in our exhibition games. Unfortunately, we lost a couple of key defensemen and we’re lucky we had him here, because he helped out in a few of those games. He certainly didn’t do anything to hurt his draft position – let’s just put it that way.