The lexicon of sport is riddled with mantras that are so oft repeated, they sometimes sound hollow. And as the battles intensify, the calls of our “best players need to be our best players”, “we’ve got to leave it all out there”, and “you gotta be good to be lucky” can be heard everywhere.
And last night, the Canucks proved that every damn one of them is true.
On a night where they entered play with three chances to punch their ticket to a Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks could have been guilty of “counting their chickens before they hatch” as they had in their last two series’ game five encounters.
Indeed, Don Cherry, who rarely has more than a back-handed compliment for the Canucks (more on that in a future post), commented that the Canucks were “ripe for the picking” after the first period of last night’s game, despite holding a 1-0 lead.
But on this night, the Canucks’ best player was one Roberto Luongo, who began the series, despite a game one victory, in the doghouse of many once more for giftwrapping a Joe Thornton series’ opening marker.
And when your $10 million keeper (as he is typically, and inflammatorily, referred to in this market) is your best player, it might not matter how well the finally present-and-accounted-for Sharks play.
And the Canucks’ second best players on this night were the Sedins, who displayed their most dominant five on five performance of this playoff. And while that wasn’t enough on its own to guarantee victory, it was plenty to take some pressure off labouring leader Ryan Kesler.
Kesler, of course, “left nothing out there” despite seemingly suffering an early lower body injury – one that would have kept him (or perhaps Joe Thornton) off the ice in most instances. And, of course, it was Kesler who found his way to the front of the net in typical fashion to deflect in the late game-tying goal.
Which brings us to “Lady Luck”. Shark fans are lamenting another seemingly premature exit, this time wallowing in their collective misfortune as opposed to a final game no show by the usual suspects. After all, the face-off that set up the tying goal shouldn’t have happened. There should have been no icing since Dan Boyle’s clearing attempt hit Daniel Sedin on the way out.
But suffice is to say, blown icing calls don’t result in goals all by themselves. Joe Thornton lost a draw (or rather Henrik Sedin won it). The Canucks managed a quick point shot and Kesler, undefended in his offce, tipped home the tying goal. So the Canucks were indeed good to be lucky. Or at least, the Sharks weren’t good enough to avoid this misfortune.
Of course, the overtime winner was about the most bizarre goal you will ever see, with literally none of the 19,000 fans in the building nor the millions viewing at home having any idea how it found its way into the net. Yes, it seemed only Kevin Bieksa and possibly Patrick Marleau had any idea what was happening. So you can imagine how that little one-on-one battle might end.
In the case of Bieksa, who is playing at a level right now that is uncharted by any Canuck defenseman before him, we shall henceforth refer to him as “The Amazing Bieksa”. Yes, his powers now seem to extend to almost the supernatural – able to suspend the attention of both teams, and millions of viewers long enough to barely dribble a pathetic point shot past an unsuspecting goalie, whose run of good fortune has seemingly ended.
So yes, the Canucks were lucky last night. But the luck only means something because they were good enough to have rightfully earned a three games to one series lead to begin with.
And now you will likely hear lots of commentary about how this team is a “team of destiny”. After all, Bieksa’s double overtime winner came 17 years to the day that Greg Adams’ memorable gave 5 double OT winner had identically vaulted the Canucks to the final. And while it might work out that way, it is only because this team is good enough to determine its own destiny.Tags: Greg Adams, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, San Jose Sharks, stanley cup, the Sedins, Vancouver Canucks