Well, it’s not like it’s been a slow news cycle in the last 24 hours.
The big Swede arrived without much fanfare…unless you count the 100 cameras at the airport. Or the fact that his first practice was streamed live on canucks.com. And then there was the press conference after the practice. Heck, we hardly noticed the guy was in town…
Yep, the madness that was the Sundin-wait was business as usual on the left coast of the hockey world.
Almost lost in the shuffle was the fact that the other big guy, Captain Robert, skated for the first time in a couple of weeks. Now, it wasn’t much, just 10 to 15 minutes with the other walking wounded. But the fact is, it was a ray of sunshine in what has been a difficult December for the boys in blue and green. The fantasy of seeing all these Canucks on the ice at the same time is within reach.
But before that, we have to face one of the shining lights on the eastern horizon. A team that helped fill the old Pacific Colliseum with some of the most feared line-ups in NHL history. Yes, before Gretz & Co. took it out on us with regular six and seven goal drubbings. Before we lost our way against the upstart Minnesota Wild, even before we truly came to hate the Leafs, there was the Philadelphia Flyers. Sometimes they beat us on the scoreboard, sometimes they just plain beat us up, but man did we love to hate these guys. Can it be true that it’s been nearly twenty years since we made them wear the L on their foreheads?
And somehow, after one really bad year, these Flyers managed to turn it around over the space of one brilliant summer with some great trades (Hartnell & Timonen), a good draft and the emergence of perhaps the next great Canadian superstar in Jeff Carter.
I remember watching the kid in a couple of World Junior Tournaments and thinking, hey, the Flyers drafted a pretty good one.
A pretty good one?
Listen, this kid does it all. Shoots rockets like an Hamas insurgent, has softer hands than George Costanza and is willing to fight like old Mad Dog Kelly. If Bobby Clarke played against this guy instead of drafting him, he’d have slashed Carter in the ankle.
As every Canuck fan knows, Carter was drafted in the same year as Ryan Kesler…Kesler was chosen 23 rd and Carter the 11th selection overall (incidentally, Bernier and Coburn were also first rounders that year). And then the aforementioned Clarke made a bold attempt to land Kesler with the first RFA offer in quite some time. Clarkie immediately became public enemy number one in Canuckland for trying to steal away one of our assets with what was termed a huge overpayment.
Imagine if he had succeeded?
But we can relax. Instead of the Flyers having one of the best scorers as well one of the best checkers in the same line-up, we can watch these two face off against each other on the ice tonight. Well, not exactly relax. The Flyers have owned us…and we owe them. Big Time.
To the game:
Well, we get right into it with a hard check on Simon Gagne that probably separates his shoulder followed by a spirited fight between Bieksa and Richards. There are those that don’t wish to see a valuable player like Bieksa drop the gloves. Me, I’d like to see him go more often. I think he plays better when he brings that kind of attitude to the game.
The last time we had a benchmark game, the Sharks made chum(ps) of us. And with Demitra trying to check Carter on a 3 on 2, it looks like we could be facing the same problem tonight. And the Flyers take it to us in the first ten minutes. We are trying, but we aren’t initiating.
The speed of the first period is daunting. The first ten minutes takes only 13 minutes of real time. Hardly enough for the advertisers to earn their 30 sheckles. But then the momentum slowly switches. We are no longer turning over for a cell-mate named Biff. We start giving as good as we are get and that leads to a Canucks PP. Now I’m thinking, watch out guys, this Flyer PK unit has more shorthanded goals than anybody else…hell they may have more shorthanded goals than the Islanders have power play goals.
But the Sedins show up quickly. Twelve seconds in on the PP he launches a laser on the short side and we are tied. Daniel’s wrist shot is under-rated.
Before we can savor the goal, Hartnell wires a dart to the glove side on Sanford and we are down once again.
The good news: we are down only one as the period ends. But we need to take it to these guys. The Flyers are big, fast and used to being treated with respect. The hell with that, I say, smack these guys like they just stole your date on prom night.
Ahh, damn. The second period proves to be too much like the first for the Canucks to take back the game. The Flyers dominate early with Kalinski adding his name to the long line of players who have scored their first career goals against the Canucks. First shot on Schneider is in.
But let’s give the boys credit, they aren’t wilting under this torrid pace. Our speed matches their speed and our aggression matches their aggression…and finally Kesler tips in a great cross ice feed from Burrows. We are still in it.
Then somehow Corey Schneider suddenly stands tall to keep us within reach by stoning Hartnell on a break away.
Bear down boys. We need to do more than match their speed and aggression. We need to find that other gear, the one that exists in the ether somewhere and I know we are capable of finding it.
The third period is one of those times when we fans have to remind ourselves to be patient…to be positive. The fact is, it’s the best we’ve looked all year in a losing cause. So many near misses on offence, so many great saves on defense.
Corey Schneider shows why he may be our future with two game stopping saves. If we play this way from here on in, we will win way more than we lose.
The Dawg’s Three Stars
1) Jeff Carter…a dominant force at both ends.
2) Corey Schneider…saved his best game for maybe his last in the show this season
3) Martin Biron…saved the Flyer’s bacon in the third period
Unsung hero… Ryan Kesler again…kept Carter from lighting us up.