I took the name desertdawg about six years ago after seeing a coyote in the California desert. I was bicycling out of a mountain pass when I spied him on a switchback below me. He was perfectly still and I didn’t think he had seen me yet. Scraggly and slightly emaciated he lay hunkered down in the 100 degree desert heat, waiting for something I could not see. Not wishing to disturb him, or perhaps become an appetizer myself, I watched and waited. After about fifteen minutes, a jackrabbit emerged from a bush and gave the coyote the old inside outside fake…Don Cherry calls that move “the old how’s she goin!”
The coyote bought it, zigged when he should have zagged and lost his meal to the noon time mirage. It was then that he noticed me above him. He glanced back at where the rabbit had been looked back up at me as if to shrug his shoulders and then trotted off to his next assignment.
Desert cool if I ever saw it.
Kind of like my friend, Ron Spence describes Eddy Jovonoski. You could beat Ed all day with that inside outside move and wonder, “How does this guy make it here?” And then Ed grabs the puck, seize control of the game, goes one on five and comes through with a big goal. My memory of Ed was that there weren’t any small goals. Somehow they were always big goals.
But Ed is having a tough time in Phoenix this year.
Para, no problema, the cynic will say. Just play the good old Canucks. Problem solved. Slump busted. But we are the New Canucks, we tell ourselves.
The only slumps we bust this year are our own.
I submit that Phoenix really is one of the more interesting teams in the league. All that young talent, all that growing together bidness. I suspect that if the Great One has a template in mind, it is back to Edmonton, circa 1979, with the Edmonton Oilers destined to miss the playoffs, but a team with young talent, all growing together. A team that truly became a dynasty. Gretz, if given enough time, could maybe grow this team. Could maybe grow as a coach. I asked him one time, what his interests were outside of hockey. I figured maybe I’d find out something different about the guy, some nugget that no other scribe had unearthed.
“Sports,” he said.
That’s it? Interests other than sports…is sports?
Most great players really don’t know how they do what they do out there. It’s all trained down to the instinctual level. But not Gretzky. Besides being arguably the greatest hockey player ever, he was also a student of the game. He was always willing to learn. I don’t see much difference in his approach now that he is coaching. He isn’t there yet. His team isn’t there yet, but one suspects they will all arrive at the same time. If that does indeed happen, we may see another dynasty in the parity driven NHL.
But back to tonight. The first period is like every first period I’ve seen this year, we win the period but are barely ahead.
We really owned the Coyotes in the first. Daniel does his usual…hit’s a couple of posts and takes an ill timed penalty. Our third line is really our first line and Bieksa proves once again he is the modern, more effective version of Eddy Jo. Burrows and Kesler combine to make Beeks look like a natural sniper. On the same play, the real Eddy Jo reverted to the old Special Ed.
Lou comes up big a couple of times and we look like we are just getting our engine warmed up.
But the engine is still idling throughout the second period. Oh sure, we out play them throughout. Another post, a close in miss, a Wellwood beauty that sails a little high. Hell, the Dawgs don’t even get a shot until there’s six minutes left to play. And even though our face up men get continually tossed, we end up winning two-thirds of the draws.
But it’s still only one zip.
Show of hands here…How many of you remember games which we out massively out- played the opposition and went into the third only one goal up…only to have the other guys find their legs, loosen their sticks, find the back of our net? Alright, that’s one, two thee..okay, pretty much everybody.
Time for the mantra.
We are the New Canucks. We are the New Canucks.
And it figures the Coyotes come out hard in the third, but really, it’s only a brief squall, not a full-fledged storm. We weather it well and keep the pressure on. But it is a grinding pressure, slow and steady, we keep pressing, but we remain inexorably cautious. Predictably the Dawgs take a couple of late penalties and Daniel Sedin finds a couple of new ways to miss the net. Relax folks. He’s a goal scorer. They go through stuff like this.
And now with two minutes to play, I’m reminded of a thought that floated through my brain after Bieksa scored…and I’m sure I’m not the only one who realized this.
I thought, well, if Lou shuts them out tonight, we win.
And now there is less than a minute left and the Yotes pull their tender…but we are the New Canucks. We manage to resist the fire drill. Lou makes a beauty pad save off of Eddy Jo and a couple of seconds later it’s over.
A vintage Canuck victory…well, vintage from two years ago. We don’t need to fill the net, score six goals every game. And Lou doesn’t always have to stand on his head to win or even get a shutout.
Winning is an attitude. A mind set with a recipe. Attention to detail. Put shots on the net. Play with pressure in the offensive zone. Stay out of the Stupid Box. Support the puck. Get the puck deep. Commit as an individual to doing your job. Commit as a team to play as a team. Team toughness, team defense.
Refuse to lose.