So Roberto has been to the Groinacologist and we get the word that he is “week to week.”
Well that’s encouraging…
I’ve been following the chat boards all day and like every other number 7 out there, wondering what the answer to the big question is, what is the meaning of life?
Oh yeah, and when will Roberto be back?
Sure, we are full of optimism: Sanford is our goalie for now. Schneider is the goalie for our future.
So I’m listening to Roberto at the press conference before the game. He is committed to returning as soon as possible. But again, when is that?
Okay folks, let’s put it aside. Take a breath. Have a drink. As Homer Simpson says, “The cause of all problems, and the solution of all problems, is alcohol. And as Roberto said at the press conference, “It’s not as bad as I first thought. There is no damage to the muscle or the ligament.”
Tonight we find out about this team. We answer all those critics (all from Edmonton) who say we are a one-man team. Without Roberto, we are nothing. And as number seven, we are insulted. It is a team game folks, and the Canucks are a team. So can we do it tonight…first game at home after a long road trip…with our franchise player injured…against the all-powerful Detroit Red Wings?
Can we win?
Well, of course. But we still have to play the game.
Often, the difference between a winning team and a losing team is decided on one goal games. If that’s the case, then the first period is not that positive. All professional sports are games of inches. The difference in the first period is that noted Canuck killer Michael Samueleson hits the inside of the post and scores. Seconds later, Sami Salo hits the inside of the post and it carooms back out again.
One nothing Detroit.
A couple of comments here. Mason Raymond is still using his speed, and placed on the fourth line, the pressure is off him. He is skating circles around the Wings. He is promoted to the second line when Bernier heads to the dressing room. I say Raymond is for real and it is only a matter of time before he puts the whole package together.
Secondly, John Garrett, who for my money has become the best colour commentator in the game, says midway through the period, that as much as it is Roberto Luongo, it is also the idea of Roberto Luongo that affects other teams (critics of the above endorsement can send their comments to Outyourblowhole@hatemail.com …I’m sure it will reach somebody). This is the best explanation I’ve heard about the Luongo mystique. He is inside their heads before the game even begins. The only thing I would add is that this works for both teams…so the Roberto mystique is inside the Canucks’ head as well (a shout-out to Jimmi Jenkins here who more or less predicted this on the Oiler chat board) so it becomes the very fact that Roberto is just in the net, playing large and impenetrable, that helps the Canucks play a more confident game.
It is therefore a mental attitude the Canuck team will have to overcome as well. Constantly relying on Big Daddy to bail them out must be removed from the thought process.
We have our chances in the first period…and I have real scoring chances at three-three. But the one way to turn around the Roberto “Mystique” is to have our goaltender stand-up, stand out, or stand on his head.
And Curtis Sanford answered the call, as the Wings massively outshoot us in the second period. Four of the Wings chances are major league, but Curtis stands up again and again and turns them back…and then stands out by making an acrobatic save on an inadvertent Willie Mitchell deflection. Even though we are down by one, we settle into keeping it close.
And then Mason Raymond shows his skill by out-skating everyone on both teams. And it is Raymond and Wellwood who become un-indicted co-conspirators on Pyatt’s third goal of the season. Raymond skates hard on the puck, Wellwood presses on the forecheck and the Wings cough it up. One of Pyatt’s strengths is his quick release and it is off his stick and up high on Osgood.
The Wings respond as champions often do, by dominating the following play and that is when Curtis Sanford stands on his head. The contrast is this: We get a power play and take a minute fifteen seconds to take control of the play in their zone. And then the Wings get a PP and spend almost the entire two minutes in our zone. An exhausted Matty Ohlund takes a weak hooking penalty and we are short for another two minutes. But our best penalty killer is Sanford and even though the Wings totally outshoot us, the second period ends tied.
The third period is marked by a huge defensive battle inside both bluelines. No one gives an inch and we get down to the clockwatching part of the game. With less than five minutes remaining, every second Canuck fan is thinking that if this was Roberto, we’d be a lock to have this game head into OT.
But you can count on one hand the number of games where a Canuck fan can truly relax. A sudden Alex Burrows penalty and one starts to think of all the near misses we had earlier. From the drop of the puck on the PK, I am struck by the Red Wings skill. These guys make short passes, find the open man and swarm the puck better than any team in the league.
And, of course, Datsyuk scores.
Ahh crap…it all seemed inevitable now and so I mentally start writing the obituary…but then suddenly think. This is the time. This is when all those statements about team come into play. It isn’t always how well you play, how much you score. But it is always how you respond…to their PP, to their goal…to our adversity.
Mason Raymond (tip of the hat here, Gord) continues to show that hockey is more than just scoring. His speed on the forecheck pays off as Detroit cannot clear the zone. A Salo wrist shot, a Daniel Sedin tip and magically, in less than a minute fifteen seconds later, we are tied up. When goal scorers are on the ice, everything they do results in a chance on goal. When they are on their game, those chances result in a goal.
Redemption is at hand. We are going to get a point…with that road trip hanging heavy, with the Roberto story looming large, with a game against one of the best teams in the league…we will not leave empty handed.
And that spirit invades the OT as we swarm the Wings from the puck drop. Two first class scoring chances, one goal post and an Alex Burrows’ (nice response there, Alex) forecheck gives us a four on three Power Play. For some reason, four on three is a more powerful advantage than even five on three.
Tonight our best puck handler has been Pavol Demitra. He doesn’t panic, he shoots hard when he needs to and he always gives himself time for a play. You saw it: he found an open Sami Salo, who true to his reputation, slammed one home.
That’s what I said… WE WIN!
The Dawg’s Three Stars.
1) Curtis Sanford: Kept us in it to win it.
2) Chris Osgood: more than a couple of Hasek-like saves.
3) Sami Salo: gets the assist on the huge tying goal and then scores the winner.
Unsung hero: Mason Raymond: continually befuddled the Wings with an aggressive forecheck and finally broke his scoring slump with an assist on the tying goal.