I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the Vancouver Canucks aren’t currently playing any games and it’s a sad time. Personally, I’m in the midst of some rough hockey withdrawal these days.
And that’s why I have decided to start re-watching old Canucks games from the (relatively) recent past. For this edition of the "Vintage Look Back," I watched the Canucks invade the Joe Louis Arena in early October 2006, to take on the Red Wings.
This was the regular season opener for the Canucks, but it had so much more attention placed on it than your typical opener. This game marked the debut of Roberto Luongo as a Canuck. Gone was the ‘West Coast Express’. Gone was the shrieking voice from behind the bench, that eminated from Marc Crawford. This was a new team, and there was new life.
And on this night, the team did nothing to take away from that optimism.
TALE OF THE TAPE
KEY MOMENTS IN THE GAME
-CBC shows the goaltending matchup, and good god.. that’s Dominik Hasek’s music! I forgot how spectacular his mask was. Just an absolute beauty. As for the goaltender on the other end of the ice, Jim Hughson quickly points out, "Roberto hopes that he’ll see his first playoff action this season." Don’t we all, Jimmy.
-The line combinations for the Canucks to start the game are: Sedin-Sedin-Naslund, Pyatt-Morrison-Bulis, Cooke-Kesler-Burrows, Green-Santala-Linden. That third line doesn’t take too long to prove as annoying in reality as it appears on paper. On defense, we have Salo-Ohlund, Krajicek-Mitchell, Fitzpatrick-Bieksa.
-For those scoring at home, Alain Vigneault is feverishly chewing a piece of gum. No sign of a lozenge. Yet.
-After Willie Mitchell commits the first penalty of the game, the Canucks decide to show off the rarely used penalty killing strategy of leaving Nicklas Lidstrom as open as possible for two whole minutes. It worked, which just goes to show that sometimes it’s better to be lucky, than good.
-Jim Hughson: "Morrison used to play with Naslund, and Bertuzzi. Now he’s just trying to find some sort of chemistry with Jan Bulis." That sound you’re hearing is the sad trombone.
-It took me four whole minutes to realize that this game probably set the record for most Swedish players in an NHL game. By my count, there’s 12 of them. In case you weren’t sure, that’s a lot.
-Stop me if you have heard this before – Henrik Sedin just took an egregious hooking penalty in the neutral zone.
-I don’t care what anyone else says, I miss Matt Cooke. This is the fourth old Canucks game I have re-watched this summer, and I forgot the degree to which he was ‘up to stuff’ all the time.
-Actual dialogue from the broadcast team: "The Red Wings defence can still get up the ice in a hurry, for an old unit." "They’re not that old. Well, Chelios…" That exchange was followed by a brief moment of dead air. Enough said, I guess.
-With 1:06 left in the 1st period, the first ever "GREAT SAVE, LUONGO!" is bellowed out from Jimmy Hugh’s mouth. To this day, it remains one of my single favourite calls in all of hockey.
-The Canucks break the scoreless tie with under five seconds left in the opening frame. On what seemed like quite the harmless play, Naslund entered the zone with a beautiful individual effort, passed the puck back to the point, and crashed the net before tipping in Salo’s point shot. The replays showed that it went off of Naslund’s head, and in. A goal is a goal, right?
-The ever-so-deadly Linden, Santala, Green trifecta turns a sloppy turnover into a greasy goal early in the second period. You know the saying – if you make a single mistake around those guys, it’ll wind up in the back of your net before you know what happened.
– Just a few minutes later, on a quick transition play, the Red Wings leave Sami Salo open streaking down the middle as the trailer. Henrik Sedin, as he is one to do, finds him with a beautiful pass. The only thing I didn’t love about this play was how fired up Salo was after he scored the goal. Settle down there, Sami. You could break something with those overly enthusiastic high fives.
– Jim Hughson reads a promo for George Strombolopolous like his cat just passed away.
– The Red Wings get on the board after a weak goal. Just how weak was it? Vesa Toskala, Dan Cloutier, and Martin Gerber think that Roberto should have saved it.
-The third period was an absolute snoozer. The Canucks chose to shut the game down, and showed no regard for generating any sort of offence. The result was only two shots on goal, and twenty painful minutes to sit through.
-It needs to be noted that this was a picture-perfect road game. They got an early lead, managed to keep the Red Wings to the outside for the most part, and received a few timely saves from Luongo. Sure, you never want to see that many power plays for the opposing team (9), but the officiating was beyond sketchy in this game. Numerous ticky-tack infractions. Essentially everything else that they had control over, was masterfully executed.
THE THREE STARS
1. Sami Salo – He scored a goal, and had another shot go in off of his teammate’s head. He was the Canucks’ biggest weapon on the power play, which comes as no surprise. Looking at the box score, though, I noticed that he led the Canucks in ice-time. Mitchell and Ohlund were close behind, but after that, the drop was rather substantial. Alain Vigneault really made certain that this would be a full team effort – in terms of forwards, only Morrison and Henrik Sedin (barely) topped 16 minutes. That’s remarkable.
2. Roberto Luongo – He was good, and made the saves that the Canucks needed him to make. The one goal that he did give up was horrific, but it’s easy to let it slide given the 3-0 lead he was working with (and the fact that we know it didn’t come back to cost the team). A solid start to a season that we would later come to know as one of the best goaltending seasons in recent memory.
3. Markus Naslund – He was the most dangerous player on the ice. He just missed scoring on numerous glorious opportunities, and ironically enough, the one goal that he did register came off of a fluky bounce in front of the net. Man, I used to love this guy (still do, but in a different sort of way).