ZURICH – Imagining Arno Del Curto in a suit and tie is almost impossible for a Swiss hockey fan. But for a short moment, prior to the warm-up, he did appear in a suit and tie in the Davos locker room, like he was applying for an NHL coaching job, shocking his players.
Of course, by game time, he was back wearing a sweater behind the Davos bench – and the trick with the tie didn’t work, either. The game was practically over after the first period.
“It’s a pity because Chicago was my favourite team as a kid. I loved the Indian logo,” Del Curto admitted. But the Swiss champions got a tough lesson from the NHL team on Monday night when the Blackhawks beat HC Davos 9-2 – the same goal difference as in the New York Rangers’ 8-1 victory over SC Bern last year.
“We played our worst game of the year. Our players were paralyzed. We had the wrong kind of respect for them, and our forechecking was bad,” the 53-year-old unveiled his feelings.
“You could see it with the example of Peter Guggisberg. He was invisible in the first two periods, then he got more relaxed, like some other players, too, and we played better. It’s a pity, I’m very disappointed. Maybe we’d have to play five, six games against such teams to make that rhythm normal to us.”
His analysis about the difference in playing against a Swiss team compared to the Chicago game is pitiless.
“NHL teams play the puck directly to the slot, and even try to shoot at the goalie’s skates from behind and wait for rebounds. In Switzerland, we go straight to the corner and circulate seven rounds until we get at the slot some day. That’s the difference,” he said.
“When we wanted to bring the puck out of our zone, they fought hard for the puck. We can somehow keep up physically and when it comes to skating skills as long as we’re not paralyzed, but when they have a scoring chance, they score, and we don’t. That’s what we learnt tonight,” he added.
The players were disappointed as well.
“Of course we wanted to keep it close but we made too many simple mistakes and they took advantage of them very effectively. The score was brutal,” said captain Marc Gianola, 35, in his 17th season with Davos.
“It’s a team from the best league in the world and they showed us where our problems are, so we have to work on that. We lost the puck too often in the offensive zone which made it easy for them to counter-attack,” the defenceman added.
Swedish national team forward Daniel Widing, who transferred from Brynäs Gävle to Davos last summer, was disappointed as well.
“The score, 9-2, was too much, so I’m disappointed, but it’s too late now,” he said. “Nevertheless, it was nice to play against Chicago, we had a lot of fans here, so we wanted to play for them.”
“They sure gave us a lesson on how to score a goal,” Widing praised the Blackhawks.
“We’ve had a great start in our league and I hope this didn’t put a dent into our confidence.”
Widing has already got used to the different coaching style in Davos compared to what he’s been known from Sweden.
“Del Curto is a little special. He does things that nobody else does. It’s the way he is and leads, and he’s been very successful. I like his style,” Widing said.
And Del Curto loves Widing’s style. He didn’t only bring back hope for a short moment when scoring the 3-1 goal, he’s also the team’s scoring leader with five goals and four assists in seven games in the Swiss league.
And now it’s back to reality for Davos, after a painful lesson, delivered by the Blackhawks.