Game 54: HOCKEY WHEN IT COUNTS

by desertdawg

It wasn’t exactly a remember exactly where you were moment…like say the ‘72 Canada Cup. But the fans in Manitoba haven’t forgotten that this is their team playing tonight in the valley of the sun. And they remember the day they left the Canadian prairie for the big money and bigger promises of the Arizona desert.

But with the desert dawgs on league administered life support, it is a crime that the folks in Winnipeg are not home to the best hockey in the world. No slight on the Moose here…they are Calder Cup contenders, after all. But let’s face it, they are flying coach, not first class. And the fans of Winnipeg deserve better. As a matter of fact, the NHL deserves better. A franchise in Winnipeg would be a sure fire money maker in this cap controlled NHL. And Winnipeg isn’t the only disgraceful story. Colleague Ron Spence has an excellent column in the Crashing The Goalie website about the Hamilton near-miss. Instead of a fierce rivalry between Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo, we have the Nashville Cats receiving large doses of NHL relief dollars from HQ in New York.

It’s just wrong. Plain wrong.

Much like the first goal Roberto let in. Decent shot, sure…but we need a save on those kind of plays. Apparently they have Jason LaBarbera scheduled to play Dallas tomorrow night. Give Roberto a rest. Not me. Roberto’s had enough rest. Rest is killing his game. He’s a work horse and he needs to work.

He makes a couple of decent saves following the opening goal, but we still haven’t solved the other big problem on this team. Our PK is not able to fend off one of the worst PPs in the league, and much like the game in St Louis, we spot the home team an early two goal lead.

Ilya Bryzgalov gives us an idea of what elite goaltending looks like when he stones Wellwood on a late PP chance. (Wellwood, if he gets some playing time down the stretch, will once again bury those in the back of the net.) You think the Phoenix goalie looks tired? He played last night in Dallas. I say we ride big Lou until he tells us it’s time to send him out to the pasture. He’s a quality guy and he’s a pro. And no one knows him better than he knows himself.

As for the PK…well, kind of makes you miss Jan Bulis, doesn’t it?

Until we solve the PK we are going to have some problems. The second period solves nothing. There’s a guy on the hfboards called Pauser who has been lobbying for an Ohlund trade for the last couple of years. I’m sure the Ohlund goal does nothing to dissuade him. But he did wire it home.

We aren’t playing like a team. When your third line is producing all the chances, you have a problem. We have a problem. We need to get the black lunch buckets out. The last second goal like Derek Morris feels like six inches of cold steal in the rib cage. In a game when both teams seem to be playing a 1-2-2, with no apparent forecheck, we are reduced to hoping for a lucky bounce.

I love luck. I believe in it. But it is no replacement for hard work.

And hard work is what we saw in the third period. By the eight minute mark we have outshot the dawgs 15 to 2. Bieksa who came back a couple of games ago, getting into fights, shoving guys around, has once again regained his scoring touch. And then a dart by Demitra that reminds us of (or helps us forget) Markus Nazlund…when he used to have a wrist shot. We are now dominating the face off circle. And then the Sedins show why they are so powerful, so valuable to this team. In the PP scramble in front of the net, Daniel has the presence to make the quick dish to Henrik and the Swedish magic shows up again. After being out-played for most of two periods, we put in one half of a period of hard work and we are ahead.

And now Roberto closes the door. Maybe I’m expecting too much, perfection from the captain every night. It’s not my fault. All those shutouts. All those saves that were class B felonies. Roberto is a victim of his own excellence. But when the Coyotes finally wake up in the 3rd period, when the Coyotes ultimately realized that this wasn’t mark messier’s Canucks, Roberto shut them down. He swallowed every shot, left no rebounds, left no second chances.

Forget the slapstick comedy of the empty net. We got the two points. Not the prettiest game of the season. But we don’t need pretty.

We needed the Double U.

And got it.

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