For some people it’s Christmas. For many of my Hispanic friends, Easter is the biggest holiday. For most kids, it’s the summer time.
For me, this is the beginning of the best time of the year. Every game means something. Most games have a level of intensity that we haven’t seen since last June. The big difference is that the Canucks weren’t playing last June. Our playoffs ended in those horrible, nightmarish efforts that ended the season. Arguably, it was the lowest we’ve felt since the messier days. Yeah there was the Bertuzzi fiasco. But the West Coast Express wasn’t a much of a factor even before he drove Steve Moore’s head into the ice. So the end of that particular non-playoff season wasn’t a huge surprise.
Then we got Big Bob Luongo and our future seemed secure. We even started last season talking about the Stanley Cup. And we ended it with a collective sense of disbelief.
And we’ve had our share of adversity this year. We were just rolling along, looking pretty solid beating some damned fine hockey teams and seemingly had a great chance at the division title. Then, THE INJURY. And then, THE SIGNING. Of course, THE RETURN FROM THE INJURY. As well as, THE OUT-OF-SHAPE SAGA. And finally, THE LOSING STREAK.
Yes, we’ve certainly had our share of dark, dank adversity.
We’ve responded the way most fans believed we could. Sure, we believe. We just aren’t so sure anymore. There’s a sense of relief about our recent performance mixed with a sense of looking over our shoulder. The injuries and subsequent adversity hopefully made the team stronger. But the truth is, it made the rest of us a little skittish. We’ve got a great shot at the playoffs…ahh, it’s only a shot, kids.
And the Flames look to be a lock to win the division.
And curiously Calgary has faced very little adversity. Certainly no injuries of any length to core players. They have put together a couple of nice winning streaks since San Jose gobbled them up in the Shark Tank a couple of months ago. Yep, since then, Keenan’s boys have played pretty well. Cammalleri is scoring in bunches, Kiprasoff has slammed the door shut, Reghyr is an absolute Hoss on the back end and Iginla is doing the Jerome thing…leading both off and on the ice. Hell, even Big Bert is scoring some goals.
I don’t wish an injury on anyone. Ever. But I think it would do Calgary a world of good if they faced a little adversity. It would be good for their soul. By even suggesting it, I am probably doing them a favour. Helping them build character. I am just that nice.
Except for the fact that Willie tried to get fancy and gave the puck away and then Iginla scored, it was a very good period of hockey. But it’s the kind of game that the Iginla’s score…the hardworking guys get the goals in this game. We didn’t just get shots, we got scoring chances. And when Calgary got scoring chances, Bob Luongo was there. No trouble getting up for a game like this.
The four-on fours shows me why Calgary has been successful this year. They’re big, they skate, they hit and they check. No system, maybe. Just lots of plain old hard work. And that’s causing give-aways by the defense in our zone. Ouch!
But the Canucks aren’t the only team guilty of defensive zone turnovers. Kesler and Burrows pull out some old magic and score a shorty. These guys are good, and together they are superb. Great effort, boys!
Too often, low scoring games means the boring trap. Not so tonight. The second period shows us that tight defensive play can still produce exciting hockey. Well, unless you are the type of hockey fan that thinks only 7-5 games are exciting. Not me. This is old skool tonight!
The Flames gap control is excellent and we run into trouble every time we try and get fancy in our own zone. Those kind of gaffs cause the keystone-kops routine with lots of running around and very little accomplishment.
By the way, I don’t love all pests. But you have to love Burrows. He sticks it to Bert for taking liberties with Edler and then sticks him again, running him into his own bench. It’s a penalty worth killing. And Bob Luongo comes up with the save of the game on a Celine Dion shot from the point. A few more of those and Calgary will start shooting at no-existent corners.
Kesler scores a PP against the 3rd best PP in the league. It’s a night where the hard working guys are getting rewarded and the truth of that comes little more than a minute later as Daymond Langkow pounds away until he sneaks one past Bob.
Still tied as the period ends with Calgary flailing away on the PP.
The third period goes to the hard workers. Rene Bourque scores his 20th…and there’s a phrase we haven’t heard in the past…but Bourque is Keenan’s kind of guy. Even so Bob would like to have a do-over here. We are down one, but our guys have come back before. Of course, we weren’t playing against Kiprasoff. It’s easy to forget how good this guy can be…because he’s not always this good. Some of these saves should be submitted to the Vatican for review. We are outshooting them 14 to 3, but the Flames have the lead…and in a game like this…Yikes.
And Kiprasoff makes about three “saves of the game.” He’s magic tonight. Save after save and…we are forced into pulling the goalie. I’ll turn that move over to the true believers. Almost never works. And Bieksa is having such a miserable game…I love the guy, but what a bad day at the office.
And then he scores to tie it up. I’m glad he couldn’t hear me after his seventh shot from the blueline didn’t get through. But his eighth shot did. And we are heading into OT because Kevin Bieksa can shoot the puck better than I can opinionate.
A great big, huge…gigantic point.
We carry the play in OT as well, but it’s Bob who makes the two big saves. Since our lucky 13 on Halloween against the Ducks we have not done well in the shootout. There’s been excuses, of course, but there’s always excuses when you lose. That’s why they call them excuses.
The game is decided by the pretty boys. I have said before that I’m not a big fan of the shootout. It’s exciting but I still consider this a team game. A tie would not have been out of line for a superbly played game like this. Bertuzzi breaks his stick in frustration and we win.
Of course, I do love the extra point and the big Double U that goes on the board.
And there is no doubt that we deserve it.