“You can’t compare the Olympics with this tournament,” he began. “First of all, we have nine guys in the lineup here who were in the Olympics, so we have 13 new guys on the team.”
“I think the biggest difference is that we had only two practices before we came to Denmark. That’s not much time. We’re getting better, but we also have several guys who played in game seven of the league finals, so it’s not easy for them to jump into the World Championship against good teams and players. Our preparation hasn’t been the best, but if we look to the future, we have a lot of kids who are getting a good experience.”
Players from the Korean success noted that although the team played incredibly well, it also got some bounces and breaks. So far, that hasn’t been the case in Herning.
“Like all tournaments now, the games are so close,” Sturm continued. “In the first two games, we weren’t lucky enough or good enough to win one of them. If we had, it would look different now.”
And then there’s another factor. It might be counter-intuitive to suggest, but not unreasonable to note that the team didn’t have its two best players, Leon Draisaitl and Dennis Seidenberg, at the Olympics, but they are both in Denmark now. Perhaps the younger players are relying too much on these great stars?
“I’m not sure. You’d have to ask them,” Sturm said with a smile. “For sure the focus here is probably on Leon and some others [who weren’t in Korea]. Sometimes maybe they do watch too much and hope they take over the game and win the game for us. But you can see, this game is not a one-man show; it takes a whole team to win. We have to figure it out and get back on track to be a tight team like we were a couple of months ago. “
On a positive note, Germany lost its first two games at the Olympics before righting the ship and playing incredibly well. Sturm is hoping for the pattern to repeat itself here.
“We haven’t been tight enough,” he admitted. “We’ve been a little all over the place. Special teams hurt us in the first game, got a little better in the second game. We didn’t have much time to prepare, but now is the time, before it’s too late. It was a better game today [against the U.S.], so we will use that for the next game.”
Many teams come into the tournament with specific goals; they even identify certain games as must-win. For Sturm, his goal is clear: “We’ve always said we want to stay in the top eight in the world,” he explained. “Right now, we’re in seventh, but we need points. We need some wins. The next few games will be important for the future, to see how we react now and how we’re going to finish here.”
Ultimately, the team has to focus on the task at hand. That means forgetting about the Olympics, the stars, the breaks, and focus on playing a team game and generating chances. Three losses isn’t good, but there is time.
“We don’t think about the Olympics,” Sturm emphasized. “I told the guys: 'Cut it!' It’s in the past. This is a totally different team and tournament. Guys here have to believe that they can play hockey, too. Sometimes they forget. The World Championship is a long, long tournament. There are always some ups and downs. It’s not the start we wanted, but it’s only three games in. We have four to go, and we want to be the better team in those games.”