It has been a brutal month for Burke. His youngest son, Brendan, was killed in a car accident in Indiana on Feb. 5, a week before the opening ceremony. As general manager of this squad, the older Burke already had been pilloried for his approach. He selected a next-generation team of younger, faster players, with a couple of veterans dotting the roster for leadership purposes.
Sunday night, those decisions looked ingenious. Veterans Brian Rafalski and Chris Drury played key roles. Goalie Ryan Miller looked like the best decision of all.
But as beautiful as the game was, Burke saw mostly warts.
"We got outchanced, 2-to-1," Burke said. "Our goaltender stole us a game. That's what happened. People can say that Canada didn't play well. I disagree with that. They outchanced us. I thought that, except for the goaltending position, we didn't deserve to win that game last night.
"That being said, that's why we brought him. That's why he's in the net. It's not like we're apologizing for the team we brought. That's why he's here, because he makes saves like that. That's not going to do it in the next round. We know that."
It truly was a legend-making performance from Miller, the gangly goalie from the Buffalo Sabres by way of Michigan State.
"Ryan Miller, in my opinion, is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this year so far," Burke said. "I remember the first time I saw him play, I was struck by how skinny he was. Even now, you know, he should be doing ads for one of those weight-loss things."
It wasn't all doom and gloom from Burke, who is GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He praised the play of Rafalski, who scored two goals in "the best game of his life," Jack Johnson and Ryan Kesler - "a gladiator."
The U.S. team is sitting in a pretty good spot thanks to the outcomes of the Super Sunday games. The Americans will play the winner of tomorrow's classification match between Switzerland and Belarus. The Canadians, meanwhile, have to beat Germany for the chance to play Russia in the quarterfinals - all with a weight roughly equal to the Earth's on their shoulders.
"The pressure started on Canada when the Games were awarded here," Burke said. "That's how long this has been going on. The pressure on their team is tremendous. I'm not making that up or playing that card. That's what it is. Having worked here and lived here as long as I did, the pressure on them is tremendous."
Burke is not making that up. He is raconteur enough to enjoy the gamesmanship of reminding his Canadian friends that one more loss will plummet their nation into an emotional abyss. Burke's team, meanwhile, had the privilege of playing pressure-free early on. That changed when the buzzer sounded on the win over Canada.
So the GM started pushing new emotional buttons yesterday. Burke made himself eminently available during the first intermission of the women's game between the U.S. team and Sweden.
"We have to play significantly better," Burke said. "We need all hands on deck. We're playing with about 10 guys carrying us, in my opinion. I'm not unhappy we're the first seed. We've got 10 guys pulling on the rope. We need everybody pulling on the rope. You didn't see Canada's best game last night. You didn't see Sweden's best game last night. Everything gets ratcheted up now. We've got to ratchet it up, too, or else everything goes for naught."
Message delivered. It will be interesting to see how it plays with the team. Judging by the way the Americans have carried themselves, and their all-business approach after beating their hosts, these guys already understand the task in front of them.
Russia. Sweden. Perhaps Canada again.
"We either brought the right group, and we get rewarded," Burke said, "or we didn't and we don't get rewarded."
It won't be easy, but if Sunday was any indicator, it will be unforgettable hockey.
Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or email@example.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.