HALIFAX – Eric Staal’s offensive outburst in Canada’s Qualifying Round game against Germany was timely, and certainly welcome.
After Dany Heatley, Rick Nash, and Ryan Getzlaf carried the load earlier in the tournament when it came to offensive production, the contributions by Staal and his line make Canada more formidable than ever.
In Canada’s 10-1 drubbing of Germany, Staal scored four goals, including a natural hat trick in the second period. The game was important for the Canadians who showed some resilience after being limited to two goals by Norway on Thursday.
It also demonstrated the importance of balance among the lines. While Staal scored four, the other six Canadian goals were from six different forwards.
Canada is not a one-line team that opponents can key in on. Instead, they can roll four lines that are capable of scoring, alleviating any pressure on others to simply play their game.
Despite coming into the Germany game with only two assists in four games, Staal said he felt no pressure having to score.
“I think for myself and for everyone on the team it is all about winning,” he said. “Obviously, you want to help out offensively as much as you can. I felt that I was working hard, and that it was just a matter of time.”
He attributes his success in moving from left wing to center and the new line combination. Head coach Ken Hitchcock initially matched Staal with Jason Spezza and Martin St. Louis. Against Germany, Spezza was replaced in the line with Derek Roy. Roy scored a goal and assisted on another; St. Louis added five assists.
“They seemed to be all over the puck, cycling and finding those areas,” he said of the effort. “It was one of those nights where things went in and we’ll take it. We have to keep getting better the rest of the tournament.”
In attempting to repeat as World Champions and do so on home ice, Canada has built a roster of players capable of carrying the load on any given day. Everyone’s contributions becomes more important at this stage of the tournament where the stakes are higher in seeking gold.
Staal’s accomplishments are already impressive. Staal has already won a Stanley Cup and World Championship gold in his still young career. With these two accomplishments, Staal is two-thirds of the way towards the Triple Gold club.
Staal needs only an Olympic gold medal to be among the nineteen players holding that distinction. The next chance for Staal to reach that honor is likely the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
For now, and most important, securing a second gold is the focus of Staal and Team Canada.