Well, I’m starting this blog before the game, so the title is going to look a little ridiculous if someone pours pig grease on the ice and the boys start tripping over the blueline again. There’s a ton of theories floating around about the losing streak. The boys are fractious at practice. There’s dissension in the dressing room. They’re quitting on the coach!
I don’t think much of any of that malarky. That’s right I said Malarky! Forget about the drama behind the scenes. These are the pros, boys. Time for some tough love here.
The answer to our woes lies in the special teams. We’ve done the job recently on the Power Play but for most of the losing streak, effectiveness on the PP has been as invisible as the ethics in the Illinois legislature. And we’ve not done the job on the Penalty Kill either. So let’s just take a quick look here. The guys that we relied on earlier to score on the PP…paging Kyle Wellwood…message for Mr. Demitra… and now more recently…I’ve got Mats Sundin on hold (and in the penalty box for the hold). These are the guys that need to start producing.
It’s that simple.
The other guys we expect to produce, the Sedin boys, are generally playing to expectations. But they can be maddeningly inconsistent. We win lots when both of those guys hit the score sheet. As for two of the other players, Demitra and Sundin, we’ve got a lot of salary committed when they are on the ice and they aren’t getting paid Tom Cruise money to just stand around and look pretty. I said I wouldn’t comment on Mats’ play until he’d played about ten games. Okay, bzzzzt.
Time to show up, Mats. You are getting paid elite dollars to produce. I know you want to. Now I’m saying, you have to. And as for Demitra, well, he loves to score…it shows on his face when he bends the twine…but it’s time to man up Pavol. No more bitching. No more excuses. Shoot the puck into the back of the net. And from the point, the other Matty, Mr. Ohlund, has to start getting that shot back on net. Period. The guys that go to the net, the Berniers, the Pyatts and yes, even the Daniel Sedins, will be there to capitalize and the red light will once again burn the back of their goaltender.
As for the PK, the conventional wisdom is that your goaltender has to be your best player. The simple truth is, Roberto hasn’t been our best player on the PK. That award goes to guys like Kesler and Burrows.
And god knows, I love Burrows.
But when he’s your best player night after night, you have a problem. Roberto hasn’t been bad. He just hasn’t been our best player.
And he needs to be.
The disintegration, nay, the implosion, of Kevin Bieksa’s game, has been nothing short of remarkable. Kevin started off the season seeking major redemption from the fan base. And initially he delivered the goods. But for the last dozen games, he’s been tentative at best and comical at worst. He doesn’t seem to be able to read plays, either defensively or on the breakout. Take a breath, Kevin. Get mean again. Quit trying to play the peacemaker. Smack some guys around. Shoot the puck past their defenders and hit the net like you used to. You’ll feel better about yourself. And you’ll take some heat off of big Willie, who spends most of his game trying to cover up the numerous mistakes.
So yeah, I’m saying that’s going to happen tonight…against a team that has spanked us previously. A Carolina team that is hot again. This is the set up for the road trip that is coming. The road trip that could mean the difference between the playoffs and the golf course.
Okay, thanks for the first period boys. Sundin and Demitra were either inspired by Kesler’s hustle, or just too embarrassed to stand around while Kes did all the work. The second goal was a beauty, by the way…Ward had no time to react. Great passing as well as great shot.
And Bieksa is now sitting on the 3 rd pairing and it looks like the weight of the world has been lifted off his shoulders. I’d still like to see him hammer someone. He’ll be smiling the rest of the week if he does.
And now backtrack to the first few minutes of the game when the Carolina looked much like their nickname. But the Hurricane were turned back with consecutive early saves by big Lou. A couple of other saves on bouncing pucks made us full value for the lead.
And in the second period, I think it best to stick with the positive. And Mats Sundin finally…positively…dominated a shift and scored goal. Was it a bit lucky? Who cares! It’s the first sign I’ve seen that we signed Mats Sundin and not Mr. Magoo. It was a great effort and it brought us back from the edge of the abyss.
Because after those two miserable efforts by Big Lou, we needed someone to seize control of the game. We’d all seen him do it with Leafs on numerous occasions and we have all been wondering whether it was still there.
Apparently it is.
And throughout most of the third period, I’m wondering about my boast of Guaranteed Win Night. I’ve said Roberto has to be our best penalty killer and clearly he wasn’t. And I said something about having a problem when Burrows is your best player.
Okay, so maybe Kreskin is a bit more amazing than me.
Because the effort of Kesler and the finish of Burrows (another YouTube special) puts an end to the nightmare. And have you seen a Canuck team being that excited (and relieved) about a regular season win? Well, at least this year…?
Good time for a road trip.