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Practice Report

Team Canada strives for perfection at World Cup

Two-goal victory not good enough for team with 15 straight best-on-best wins

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

TORONTO -- A quick look at the box score would suggest Team Canada has nothing to be concerned about.

Team Canada defeated Team Europe 3-1 in Game 1 of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 final on Tuesday. It led in just about every other statistical category that matters: shots on goal, shot attempts, faceoffs, you name it.

But try finding a member of Team Canada who thinks that same effort will be sufficient to win Game 2 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA, TVA Sports).

A day after that victory and after having held a meeting to go over the game Wednesday morning, Team Canada still was focusing on its errors in Game 1 instead of the fact it leads the best-of-3 series 1-0.

Center Ryan O'Reilly said Team Canada looked at some video, and it wasn't a very pleasant experience.

"It wasn't one of our better [meetings], that's for sure," he said. "But it's what we needed, it's something we have to clean up. This next game's a huge one for us. We want to close it out and we want to close it out right now."

Video: Weber: We have to clean up some things

This is where Canada is right now; winners of 15 straight best-on-best games dating back to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, it is setting its own standard of excellence, one so high that a two-goal victory is not enough to reach it.

There were careless turnovers at the opposing blue line, odd-man rushes allowed, penalties taken, and shifts spent defending in their own zone. A lot of that was because of what Team Europe was doing, but Team Canada has trouble looking at it that way.

It sees mistakes. Unacceptable mistakes.

"The standard is high," forward Corey Perry said. "When you look at our game, there was a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed checks. They could have had a couple of chances early on to go up a couple of goals. That's kind of uncharacteristic of how we play and how we have been playing."

In many ways, Game 1 proved that if Team Canada is going to lose, it will be because it plays well below its own standards. Team Europe played its best game of the tournament and lost to a team that considered the game its worst. Coach Mike Babcock sees nothing wrong with setting standards that high.

"I think when you're a good team and a proud group of guys and you know how you want to play and the standard you've set for yourself, you just want to achieve that," he said. "It's important to play and be the best you can possibly be."

The standard is set by Babcock, but it is policed by the group of seven players who have been in uniform for each of Canada's 15 straight wins: Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby.

It trickles down to the rest of the team.

Video: Best of Mic'd Up: Europe vs. Canada Gm1

"There's no doubt that the result could be very different if we have another performance like that," Toews said. "When you can rely on guys with the way Sid's line is playing, the way [goaltender Carey Price] is playing, you can have an off game and still find a way to win a game.

"But obviously in a series like this, to close it out, it's going to take much more than that, so I think the pride factor's going to kick in knowing that. Obviously, we want to win [Thursday] night, but we want to show much more than we did [Tuesday] night. I think, to an individual, everyone feels the same way."

The player who has spent the least amount of time on Team Canada is O'Reilly; he's playing the first best-on-best tournament of his career after joining the team as an injury replacement for Tyler Seguin on Sept. 14, three days before the start of the World Cup.

"We want to be the best and we want to play a perfect game," O'Reilly said. "Obviously, there's going to be bounces that are going to affect it, but for us we want to prove we're the best hockey team every shift."

That culture is so ingrained on Team Canada and the standard is so high, it is not reachable. No team is perfect, not even this team.

But when you have soundly defeated every opponent, sometimes you need to set your own goals. Striving for perfection appears to be the only way Team Canada can continue to improve.

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