Outfielder Andre Dawson once said, “I want to be a role model…have kids look up to me. I want to kids to copulate me.”
See, there’s the problem. We elevate our sports heroes to God-like status and when they show signs of having feet of clay, we take them down off the pedestal and nail them up on the…well, you know what I mean. So, two weeks ago, Mats rode into town and we all sang choruses of “Hosana, …for he will lead us to the Stanley Cup.”
And then two games in, after nine months off, he doesn’t look so hot and the knives come out.
Remember Roberto Luongo’s first season with us? He skated on to the ice in October with one of those “Hello, My name is Moses” name tags on and proceeded to look ordinary; worse than ordinary some might say. His October/November stats had many local fans screaming that we had been ripped off by the incredibly clever Mike Keenan and we had traded in our cash cow (Todd Bertuzzi) for a big dumb goalie and three magic beans. And then Roberto’s game came around and we went on to first place in the division and the second round of the playoffs.
Roberto was carried on the shoulders of the local citizenry and placed up unto the golden throne from whence he has ruled ever since. Well, except for the end of last season when some personal issues invaded his life and he was briefly exiled in a palace coup. But then another shutout string this fall saw Roberto re-gain his crown and once again all was happiness and light in Canuckland.
And he rules, even if from the injury list, to this day.
Once big Lou comes off the injury list, however, there will be very little patience for him getting his game up to speed. He will be expected to deliver, and deliver quickly. After all, he’s making close to six and a half million a year. Just win, man, just win.
And that’s Mats Sundin’s problem right now. All these youngsters skating around him in mid-season form and he’s just getting his 39 year old legs into training camp shape. Even Tommy Larscheid was adding to the noise with a pre-game comment about putting Mats on notice.
Okay, folks. Let’s chillax a little here. It’s we fans who gobble up the hype on our superstars like it’s Christmas dinner and we’re back to the buffet table buffet table for our third helping of deep fried turkey. It’s enough to give you the meat sweats.
Mats Sundin does not need to be the saviour. Nor does Roberto Luongo.
It’s January and we are in the thick of the playoff race. I expect both these guys, as long as they stay healthy, to be key figures in whatever noise we make this season. Just like I expect Henrik and Daniel to be key figures. And Kesler and Burrows. And Mitchell and Ohlund. There’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle and we need a little more time to let them all fit together. Otherwise we are running around with our heads cut off and acting like Leaf fans. It’s a team sport. We don’t need saviors, we need leaders. And we’ve got more than a couple on this team:
To The Game:
Well, you watched it, so there’s no sense in detailing it here. So let’s talk impressions. And my first impression is: we wuz robbed. If there was a bounce, we didn’t get it. If there was a marginal call, it went against us. And if a deflection went in the net, it went in our net. I thought for the most part we outplayed them. But they won the most important stat tonight…the puck luck count. Let’s not make a habit about complaining about luck…but we didn’t have it tonight. And they did. Daniel and Henrik were dangerous throughout and Henrik’s tip-in at the fifteen minute mark would have given us the all important first goal.
Mats is slowly but surely getting into the play. He’s coming closer. But we run into penalty trouble. First when Sanford is bird dogged by a ref with 20/20 vision and Curtis gets called for playing the puck in the no-zone (by 1/10 th of a centimeter) and that ends our power play. We end up with a 4 on 3 PK and then after a minute of that guff, the dreaded 5 on 3.
Oh, these are game changers. But folks, you saw it. We respond by working our asses off. Every player out there is accountable. Everyone does their job. We all but killed it until a weird deflection off of Ryan Kesler’s skate gives them the lead.
However, a late PP for us seems to see our fortunes turn and Mats is suddenly the most popular guy in town.
And I have to admit I jumped up when he scored. Now, I didn’t dance around the room (the dawg only dances on truly special occasions). But I did jump up. Mats one-timed the rebound with a skill that only certain players have. And watch the replay. Watch how he has the presence of mind to clear a dead stick out of the way just before the rebound. That’s someone with their head in the game. That’s a guy we want on our team.
And an early impression on the second period is a great breakout, a fine pass and inexplicably our best finisher Daniel Sedin, shoots the puck through the crease. A great set-up by Henrik, but the puck and the luck disappeared into the ether. And then Grier on a pedestrian shot from forty feet finds a corner above Sanford’s shoulder.
Shortly after the Sharks’ goal we get the four minute PP. Now, I have to admit here, I was a bit torn at that point. Sure, I wanted the four minutes (although truth is, I didn’t know we’d get four at that point) but the other part of me, the part that thinks from the hindbrain, is the reptilian section that wanted Bieksa to just throw a holy-hell beating out there. We haven’t seen Kevin tune someone up for awhile and at that point I might have been willing to trade in two of those minutes for a session of good, old fashioned smack-face. Four minute PPs are tough because the sense of urgency is different. At the end of it, we end up with a couple of great chances, but no goals.
A brief digression about the referees. I hate it when fans blame a loss on referees. But I hate it just as much when the zebras miss calls, and then compound it by making lousy calls. I’m referring to the Shane O’Brien holding the stick call. It wasn’t a horrible call, although SOB’s stick was being held as well, so it wasn’t a great call…but more of a reputation call.
But seconds before that, Pavelski takes Edler out of the play before he touches the puck. A missed call…an obvious interference on Edler that is compounded by the call on SOB. I jump up and point an accusing finger at the ref. He does well to hide his shame by ignoring my accusing digit while O’Brien skates to the box.
Sometimes, the great thing about lousy penalties is that they get killed off. Remember this stat: when we were at the top of the division our PK was at the top of the league. The PK is still one of the major keys to winning hockey.
And SOB emerges from the penalty box and takes a pass at the blueline, holding the puck far too long…the play has passed him by…oh man…before he deftly lays it onto the stick of our best goal scorer. Which is why Shane is on the ice and I’m clogging up my major aortic artery with another slice of pizza.
Daniel’s 21 st ties us up.
And lets talk about that last minute of the second period. The simple fact is, SJ used up a month’s worth of luck in the last twenty seconds. Wellwood causes all sorts of havoc in front of the net and the replay shows the puck across the line.
Was the puck in? Well, sure, but not all the way in. It was a period where we had chance after chance. Of course the other leading indicator of winning hockey is the PP. And ours is often mediocre. If the Sedins or Wellwood don’t score we go ofer (Like O for two…O for three). Sundin got the big one earlier on, but he’s just replacing Wellwood with the Sweedins. Be nice to get our D back involved in the PP with some big time points.
And Edler breaking the glass on the PP is an interesting development. But we blow it seconds later when Mats takes us off the man advantage. Four on four should be one of our strengths given our reliance on duos but it hasn’t been our strength this year.
So the bottom line here…if you want to talk about luck tonight, look at the SJ goal that sends them up three to two.
The hockey Gods are not smiling on us tonight. If there’s a bounce, the Sharks are getting it. For the third time, we are behind and now the Sharks turn to the 1-2-2 trap. As we press, they get the insurance goal and it’s all but over. It looks like sloppy hockey, but the fact is, a well-executed trap is extremely hard to break.
And the Sharks are all about execution.
But unlike last game against these monsters, I see a ray of hope. There is still character and work ethic on our team and there are still injured players to return. There is talent that is emerging.
There is still noise to be made.
The Dawg’s Three Stars
1) Patrick Marleau…remember when we all thought he was finished in SJ.
2) Daniel Sedin…all star goal scorer.
3) Brian Boucher…you have to be good to be lucky
Unsung hero…Willie Mitchell…just keeps getting better