Gushue and his St. John’s team of Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker posted two more lopsided wins Wednesday in Edmonton, defeating the Netherlands and Japan to run their record to 9-0 and clinch a berth in Friday night’s 1-2 Page playoff game.
And has been the case for most of the Canadian games this week at Northlands Coliseum, these ones ended without going the distance.
Teams can decide to the majority of of the contests for Canada, which has outscored the opposition 77-29 overall.
In fact, seven of Gushue’s nine games so far haven’t gone the regulation 10 ends, with all seven over by the eighth end. Two have gone the minimum six ends.
In all, the Canadians have played 69 ends, meaning they have spared themselves 21 ends, or the equivalent of more than two full games.
All those early finishes should help Gushue and his team stay fresh for the playoffs, where games will likely be longer.
Lead Geoff Walker has been dealing with a sore shoulder since the team’s win at the Brier in St. John’s last month and Gushue is still bothered by a hip/groin injury that caused him to miss the first half of this curling season. And the skip says when his team arrived in Edmonton, it wasn’t fully recovered from the tough grind that came with a hometown Brier victory.
So any saved throws are welcomed.
“It's a huge positive,” Gushue told Gregory Strong of teh Canadian Press. “The less I can be on (the ice) the better, to be honest. At this point, I don't need more reps or more volume. I feel comfortable with the ice and I feel comfortable with how I'm throwing it.
“So if I can keep the fatigue down and be ready come the weekend, I think that's a positive.”
Gushue's 8-3, eight-end victory over Netherland in the morning was followed by a 10-2, seven-end demolishing of Japan in an afternoon game that featured a five-ender for the Canadians.
Those decisions added to what’s been an amazing run for the team from St. John’s. Team Canada struggled a bit as it worked out the kinks in a first-draw win over Switzerland, but Gushue and his teammates have been at the top of their games ever since.
“This is as good as the team has ever played for this long a stretch for a while,” Gushue told Curling Canada’s Grant Granger after the win over Japan. “We’ve had better games in shorter stretches .. like two or three games in a row, but to have nine games in this fashion — well, I guess eight because the first one (against the Swiss) was tough — but certainly eight in a row like this is impressive.”
It’s hard to find any negatives in their performance, although there have been questions about whether the one-sided victories and all those conceded ends will take away from the Canadians’ sharpness entering the playoffs.
In other words, could they have been having it too easy?
Gushue doesn’t think so and believes his team will have no trouble turning up the intensity in tight games.
“When you look at what our team has done at the Brier or on tour, we’re typically a team that’s one-up with (the hammer) coming home, or tied up with (hammer) coming home or two up without. That’s how we win the majority of our games,” he said.
“This is a little bit unfamiliar territory to have this many lopsided games. (But) it’s certainly nice because of the grind we had at the Brier to get here and how we were feeling physically at the beginning of the week.
“We had to make up some ground on the rest of the teams and I think we did that by having 21 less ends.”
Even though they have earned a spot in the 1-2 playoff game and the second chance that comes with it, the Gushue rink still has something to play for as it takes on Italy this morning and Norway tonight.
One more win means they will clinch first overall and last-rock advantage in the 1-2 game, which will be played against either Sweden's Niklas Edin or Switzerland's Peter de Cruz, who each had 7-1 records heading into their head-to-head matchup Thursday night.
Canada defeated both those teams earlier in the week in their only games to go the full 10 ends.
The top four teams make the playoffs.
The 1-2 winner will advance to Sunday's gold-medal game, while the loser remains alive to play in a Saturday night semifinal.
The Page 3-4 game between the third and fourth seeds will be played Saturday afternoon, with the victor filling the other semifinal berth.
With files from The Canadian Press and Curling Canada