by Bill Heintz
I generally drink a fairly modest brandy…usually a California distillation, or I might even pour one of the better Mexican brandies before a game. But the first game of the season? Well, then I uncork the old Martell Cordon Bleu and treat myself to a triple hit of this legendary cognac… just to get the ears and gears lubricated, of course.
Ahh, it’s great to be Canadian on a night like this.
We’ve waited all summer…well truthfully, at least since last spring, for the puck to finally drop and the race to begin anew. And judging by the comments the last couple of days, I’m not the only one sampling the sauce. Everyone, from noted cynics such as Ed Willies right to that nasty albino Tony Gallagher…and then even to insiders like Alain Vigneault and Rick Bownes.
And all are calling for the Canucks to make a serious move for the Stanley Cup. Hell, even the Toronto Sports Network said we’d be there at the end.
Hesus de Cristo! The Stanley Cup. The Vancouver Canucks. This year!
So yeah, I’m not the only one who drinks.
But that kind of Kool Aid can quickly turn sour after a few losses…just ask the Oiler fans…so I’m not having any of it. Not yet anyway. Like my colleague, Ron Spence, I’ve seen some pretty good Canuck teams over the years. But the only Cup I’ve seen going down Robson St has been covered in tin foil. Lucky to be there in 1982 against the vastly superior Islanders, we wuz robbed in 1994.
The league gave Mike Keenan an extra day for the meds to take hold so that Brian Leetch and Mike Richter could drive that final stake into the Linden-lead Canucks.
Still, that might not have been the best Canuck team ever.
A couple of years later, we somehow managed to have Linden, Bure, Maclean and Mogilny all on the same team. And then Pat Quinn brought in what we all thought would be the missing piece of the puzzle for a true run at the Cup. The greatest leader in all sports was signed to what was then a massive six million dollar deal to provide the spark that would see us take home the big one.
The problem was, mark messier just cashed the checks instead of back checking. While Linden was getting hammered in front of the net, messier was cruising around the perimeter, possibly in Pt. Roberts Washington, and the Canucks never became a real team. So they brought in Mike Keenan to fix it.
Once again. Hesus de Cristo!
You probably all know the vandalism that was committed on this franchise by the likes of Keenan and messier. We couldn’t even make the playoffs let alone win a Cup.
Strangely, it was the Mouth That Roared that brought this franchise and it’s leadership back to respectability. The night that Linden came back and played (I think it was against Minnesota) for the Canucks was one of my all time proudest moments as a Canuck fan.
Of course, Brian Burke was never the same after he was tossed from the Nucks camp…it seems to have affected his moral compass as well…and the entire organization took years to emerge from the Bertuzzi Brain Bashing.
And now it seems we have emerged. Finally. But all Canuck fans know to sip the Kool Aid slowly. We’ve had too many years where the optimism of the Fall turns into the golf courses of the Spring.
One game at a time.
And the first period is a perfect example of the evils of drink. It can make you fat and lazy. And for most of the period, fat and lazy is how we looked…well at least for the first 19 minutes and 59 seconds. The only positive note was the reaction to Celine Dion’s elbow on Daniel Sedin. Typically, Phaneuf retreats and will not man up. Nice to see Bieksa go after him before Samuelson did the smack down.
The only other good thing is that it was only one period…the first period. Of course it can always get worse. But this may be a perfect test for the Mike Gillis theory about character. So before we switch from Kool Aid to Hemlock, let’s see how we respond in the second period.
Which was mo’ better.
It wasn’t so much the goals as it was the intensity. We didn’t show up in the first period. But we did in the next twenty minutes. Yes, it showed up on the scoreboard. But it also showed up on the sideboards. And the endboards. Because that’s the only way you can beat a team like the Flames. You beat them on the boards. Is it too late? Well, it’s clear that Roberto has to shut them down the rest of the way. And we have to beat them…beat them into submission.
Forty one seconds in Alex Burrows pulls us within one. It is a real bone fide hockey game now. And we dominate but the Flames spend the period in the Sutter trap. We get chances but the Flames collapse to the middle, mucking up most scoring chances. We are left with the pulling the goalie gambit. Phaneuf burries it on Conroy’s interfence and kills our chances.
We can bitch but the truth is we didn’t bring it early. We’ll need to learn from that.