BRATISLAVA – If your team overachieves for about half a game, does it then play, on average, a good game? That’s what Denmark coach Per Bäckman seems to think, even after his team’s 6-0 loss to the Czech Republic on Monday.
“I think we played over our capacity for about 30 minutes. Then we even had a two-man advantage on power play, and we should have scored there. Instead, the Czechs made it 2-0 right after,” he said.
The game plan was clear: Keep the Czechs off the scoreboard for as long as possible, and wait for their mistakes. However, the Czechs scored their first goal 2:29 into the game.
“We know that we score an average of 1.5 goals against them, so obviously, when they scored their second after our power play, we lost our confidence a little bit, and it’s natural that you don’t have the same energy going into puck battles anymore. But we tried to stay proud and play a good third period,” Bäckman said.
Bäckman kept on smiling his trademark crooked smile as he re-played the game surrounded by journalists. Denmark’s quarterfinal spot in last year’s tournament created expectations that this year’s team – without four highest-scpring players Peter Regin, Frans Nielsen, Lars Eller, and Jesper Damgaard – hasn’t been able to meet.
The coach was trying to put it all into perspective.
“Mikkel Bødker plays about six minutes a game with the Phoenix Coyotes, he’s just not used to playing 23 minutes a game of top international hockey, we must not forget that,” he said.
“We’re playing against world-class players here, and I think we do it well. We have 13 players from our domestic league, which is a few tiers below this level. I think we can be happy with the play the team has played here. We had scoring chances to put up a fight against the Czechs, although, honestly, I think they would have found yet another gear, had they needed it,” he added.
To have success, to be able to get a point or three against the big nations, the challengers always need rock solid goaltending. Denmark’s goaltenders Fredrik Andersen, who played in the game against Finland, and Patrick Galbraith, who got the nod in the game against the Czechs, have save percentages – 88.64 and 82.86, respectively – that are 17th and 20th in the tournament.
“It’s just as difficult for the goaltenders to take the step up to this level. Everything happens at double or triple speed compared to the Danish league or the Swedish Hockeyallsvenskan (where Galbraith plays),” said Bäckman.
“Patrick had to deal with several difficult situations, and he did it well. I actually don’t think he had a chance of making any more saves, even the one that went through his five-hole, touched a player, and changed direction, on the way,” he said.
He also found a lot of positive in the game.
“I’ve been impressed by how Kasper Jensen and Jesper B Jensen have played in the two games here. That’s a defensive pairing of the future. Jesper Jansen didn’t shy way from any battles, and showed that he really wants to be here. The same with Julian Jakobsen,” he said.
And that’s why he’s not worried about Denmark’s last game in the Preliminary Round, against Latvia. The winner will go on to play in the Qualification Round, the loser will go to the Relegation Round.
“It’s a 50-50 game, it’s a whole new game,” he said.