Coach Mike Babcock cited the arduous paths to the gold for the 2006 Swedes and the 2002 Canadians in his postgame comments, harkening back to his notion after the U.S. game that Canada's simply on a "different path" to the championship. Unfortunately, it's the difference between a people-mover from the airport and crawling through a field of broken glass.
So we'll say this: Canada is a better team having played a qualification-round game before playing Russia.
All four lines clicked for the first time. The special teams hummed like machines. Roberto Luongo was able to get a game in before facing the Russian arsenal. And don't underestimate the spiritual cleansing this win provided after a bitter, embarrassing defeat to the Americans.
It sends Canada into the most highly anticipated game of the last several years with essential momentum.
"I think this is the first game we all started clicking," said winger Rick Nash, who skated on an effective line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry that could line up against the Alex Ovechkin/Evgeni Malkin/Alex Semin line on Wednesday night.
"We had to look at the positive. We were playing it either way. I think it's tough to find chemistry in short tournaments like this."
Nash's line generated only one goal, despite Babcock sending him to that wing to juice the Anaheim Duck players' offense. But his former linemate Sidney Crosby's new group with Jarome Iginla and Eric Staal clicked like a loaded weapon: three goals and six total points, including two goals for Iginla and one for Sid. They played well down low, possessed the puck, and worked with more chemistry than any of the five incarnations of the Crosby line.
"You don't want to play the qualification game, because it means you didn't finish high. But it definitely could be good, and good for our team," said Iginla. "There are a lot of different options for Mike. But it feels good to play with [Crosby]."
Forward Jonathan Toews said he felt the chemistry throughout the lineup. "It was really in sync. Power play, penalty kill," he said. "Everyone's ready for what we have to face. Tomorrow night will be the same thing."
Of course, Wednesday night will be anything but the same, everything but ordinary. Canada vs. Russia means a rivalry spanning decades, a battle of current superpowers.
Oh, and Crosby vs. Ovechkin. Again.
"I know he'll be excited. Sid will be excited. All our players will be excited," said Babcock.
Crosby said he anticipates Ovechkin will bring his physical game in the showdown. "I'm sure he's going to hit one guy, if not more," said the Pittsburgh Penguins captain.