Last night’s blog was written from the heart of the American melting pot. Tonight’s commentary is more a report from Wonder Bread Land. Or maybe given the Disney history, simply just Wonderland. The Anaheim Ducks are in Orange County, known for its John Wayne Republicans, Mickey Mouse and endless rolling acres of tract housing that is worth 45% less than it was three years ago. And for any Maple Leaf Fans who are holding out hope that Brian Burke might come to rescue the Leafs next year, relax. He’s definitely moving to your town at the Centre of the Universe.
Now Brian Burke is a lot of things but one thing I can tell you from personal experience: this is a very smart man. I first talked to Burkie way back when Pat Quinn brought him on board as an assistant. His candor was disarming you. “I’ll be honest with you, if I have to lie to you to advance the cause of my team,” he said. “I will.”
He never fails to let reporters get at least one gem of a sound bite out of each interview. In Toronto recently, he started out his press conference by announcing he would allow each reporter only one question about his managerial future. So guess what the first questions asked were? Brian knows how to dominate the sporting news cycle.
But in Orange County, they call it ice hockey. They relegate it to page seven, right behind baseball, college football, NFL football, basketball, golf and NASCAR. And Brian can look down the road as well as anyone. He can see Toronto has no where to go but up. He can see that the NHL salary cap may flatline next year…at best. And he can see that his formerly (Mighty) Ducks will have 19 players facing some form of free agency after this year.
Pack up the wagon, Jenny, we’re a headin’ back east.
But first there is the small matter of this season. And don’t let this year’s slow start fool anyone. As much as the pundits are ready to hand the Cup to Detroit, Brian Burke’s Ducks will be fully engaged during the Stanley Cup tournament and they just might win it. They are still that good, folks.
So this is a good benchmark tonight. Are we good enough to play with the big boys?
Well no, not in the first period. There’s no sense doing a play by play here for you folks. You can watch the game the same as me. Like you I’m surprised by the number of penalties the Canucks are taking. That’s usually the Ducks’ bread & butter, a hallmark of Randy Carlyle coached teams.
The seven goals scored in the second period is like something that most fans haven’t seen since the Oilers filled the net in the mid eighties. Grant Fuhr was the best goalie in hockey and he routinely won games 6-4 and 7-5.
This feels like one of those nights. Casey Stengle used to say “Can’t anyone here play this game?”
Odd man rushes and continual turnovers dominate the play. Pond hockey at The Pond. A standard Halloween fright fest.
Well, according to Bettman, this is what the fans want.
Teemu Selanne is flying around the ice like every shift is three-on-three hockey. There hasn’t been a body check since the ten minute mark of the first period. No, I lie. Bieksa hammered Montador and sends him limping down the corridor in the third. And speaking of Bieksa, all the fans who wanted to trade him are eating the crow pie served up by those who wanted to give him another chance. I’ve never seen him play better. Coaches like to talk about gap control. They might want to talk about gap control to the players tonight. There is so much ice out there I figure we could probably have an everybody-out-there pee wee game and still have room for the big boys.
The other guy flying around is Bernier. Not having to think like a Sedin has finally freed this guy up. His second goal was the most hustle he’s shown all year.
At the other end of the spectrum is Brendan Morrison. He looks utterly lost out there. After our sixth goal, Roberto Luongo now has more points than Brendan. Fans of the old WCE will be distressed for him, hoping he gets it together, just not tonight. I’m also watching Bret Hedican. The guy is still one of the best skaters to play the game…but he also has moments where his brain freezes up.
Well, given that we couldn’t protect a three goal lead in the second period, there’s no reason to expect that we can hold onto a one goal lead. Matty Ohlund fluffs an easy clear just as the announcer is a telling us there’s one minute left and Corey Perry drives another dart home. It’s sixes as the horn blows. Mo isn’t the only player without a point…the Sedins aren’t on the score sheet either.
Overtime is usually not kind to the team playing the second of back to back games, but the Canucks handle themselves fairly well. A few hairy moments in a game that was nothing but hairy moments.
The shoot-out is a perfect insult to hockey purists much like this game has been. But then, after Wellwood waives his wand and Getzlaf makes the big fake, the sticks go cold. Where’s Marek Malik when we need him? We watch a full twelve rounds with no resolution. The superstitious hope the thirteenth shooter is lucky, and Matty Ohlund makes up for his end-of-the-game gaff by finally ending it. The thirteenth shot scores the thirteenth goal on Halloween.
Whoooo. Scaarrrrry, kids.