Friday, January 06, 2006

Hockey January 5th

There were two hockey games last night that that were of interest to West Vancouverites. These were:

Canada 5 Russia 0 - World Juniors at GM Place
Canucks 3 at Chicago 2 – NHL

The two games overlapped so I can not profess to have watched every minute of both games. To be honest the euphoria of the Team Canada game overshadowed a somewhat lack lustre event by the two struggling teams playing in Chicago’s half empty United Center. While official attendance in Chicago was 17,227 the local TV coverage guys said it looked to be more like in the range of 11,000. GM Place was a sell out with suggestions that tickets were going for $800 each, pre-game, outside the rink.

Canada 5 Russia 0

I think that the interesting story in this game is that the Canadian boys played as men and the Russian boys played as, well, boys. Certainly Canada’s goalie Poggie keep us in the game early. Russia’s disallowed goal that would have made the game 2-1 also played a role in the eventual outcome. Overall Team Canada played their roles. They played disciplined and patient game. They didn’t disappear when they were clearly out played by the larger, more talent laden, more experienced Russian team. Team Canada had a bigger will to win. Consider had that disallowed goal gone the other way or had Canada had an early goal nullified would the eventual outcome been different? I suggest not. Men will always prevail over boys.

Luc Bourdon a 6’2” 199lb defence man who was drafted by the Canuck’s in the first round of 2005 entry draft played a fine tournament for Team Canada and endeared himself to the Vancouver fans. I look forward to watching Bourdon with the ‘Nucks when he graduates to the NHL.

Canada’s coach Brent Sutter did a good job with the resources at hand. He crafted twenty two young men into a team able to beat the world’s best 19 year old hockey players as of January 5, 2006. I ponder what Brent Sutter’s future will bring? Is he able to coach at the NHL level? Does he want to? His brother is Head Coach and GM of the Calgary Flames. It would be fun to see these two of the Sutter brothers duke it out from behind the players bench. Which leads us to…..

Canucks 3 Black Hawks 2

The other game last night was ‘Nucks vs. the Hawks. A contest of two teams struggling with their games. The difference being, I suspect, the ‘Nucks are excepted to win whereas the pundits have sparse expectations for the Hawks. The Canucks have been on a slide recently having only won one of their last eight or nine games. They did pick up a few points for Overtime and Shoot Out losses over that stretch but yuck those are worse than the old “kissing your sister” ties.

Points of interest from last nights game. The Ruutu brothers played against each other. Both scored with Vancouver’s Jarko’s goal being a pretty undressing of goalie Andersen on a penalty shot in the third period. This turned out to be the game wining goal. Tuomo was the game’s second star and Jarko was the third star.

The ‘Brotha Line’ (Carter, Sedin, Sedin) out played the ‘West Coast Express’ (Naslund, Morrison, Bert) again. Bieksa and Burrows played noticeable games. Both are call ups from the AHL Moose and both play like they want to stick with the big club. Auld played an OK game. Had he stopped the last goal by Lapointe, I’d have likely said he played a good game. One left the game with the distinct impression that Auld had contributed to the win rather than Auld had contributed to the loss as was the case the nights prior in Dallas and St Louis.

Matt Cooke played a good game. He is one of the few Canucks that seems to show up night after night. As happy as I am about this I wish he would tone down his energizer bunny routine while he is wearing that fish bowl to protect his recovering broken jaw. Smashing and crashing and being a needleler from inside a mask just seems off to me. Sure Matt, get out there and lay on the hugest hits you can! Then get up and skate way. When you’re back to the visor go ahead and do your chirpy, all elbows and face washing thing.

Which brings me in closing to the Canucks showing up. We’re grateful for Chicago and the two points. In the standings in April no one remembers if the wins were ugly or pretty. On the other hand the work effort given on this road trip was that which would have beaten a .500 team on 50% of the nights. It showed in the results. We have Calgary (Saturday HNC) and Toronto (Jan 10 PPV) up in the next two games. If there are any expectations of success in those games a much better performance is still required. Let’s face it Marc ‘Crow’ Crawford is not motivating these guys to want to win. I guess the counter argument is that professionals do not need artificial motivators. As professionals, unlike the junior Team Canada, they know the job to be done. Which brings me around to Brent Sutter again. Isn’t he exactly what the ‘Nucks need? A new voice of motivation. A new message. A strong disciplinarian. If the ‘Nucks were to start playing more like Team Canada did: within their roles, with patience, as a team then I suggest the positive results will follow. Crawford is an excellent coach. But coaches have a shelf life. I hope Marc’s doesn’t read 15-Dec-2005 or if it does then Nonis/Tambellini need realize this now before the playoffs are missed or we lament another early round exit.


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