<table width=90% align=center border=0><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/henderson_headshot.jpg align=left hspace=4>Well, that was a pretty darn entertaining slice of history, wasn’t it? Maybe now the schedule makers will see the value of allowing the Canucks to participate in the occasional Saturday night game.
Despite the loss, it was an absolute value-for-money experience. I left GM Place with the same feeling of giddiness that usually accompanies a win. I mean, c’mon – this was perhaps the first and last time we will witness Matt Cooke drawing five for … okay, not fighting exactly. Five for not backing down.
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/12/dec0807_canuckvspenguin13_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/12/dec0807_canuckvspenguin13_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>And the penalty shot with Crosby versus Luongo – that was something else. Fresh in my mind was the same battle at last year’s All Star Superskills competition, where the Kid beat our beloved goalie on two shots before Roberto, looking furiously determined, stopped the last one. Louie went two for two on Saturday – so maybe he has figured out the superstar scorer – our boy does seem to be a quick study. I’m grateful to have witnessed it live. And I look forward to these two lads serving on the same side, representing the True North at the 2010 Olympics.
The Canucks did get off to a sluggish start, which is to be expected when they were playing a high-expectation game in front of their home crowd, in the middle of the road trip from hell. And when, a minute into the game, they took an extended penalty for breathing on Number 87.
It’s not unusual for men’s brains and sticks to be out of sync, but the frequent lack of crisp passing by the Canucks could be credited to nerves – the boys too often looked like they were afraid of making a mistake. When you play that way, it’s hard to generate any real offense. On the other hand, they did an excellent job of shutting down the Penguin’s young scorers, who were frequently forced to the outside, or had the puck poked away before they had a chance to make a play. And when they did, Roberto was there, in amazing technicolour.
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/12/dec0807_canuckvspenguin08_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/12/dec0807_canuckvspenguin08_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4></a>Mr. Crosby failed to score a single goal in Western Canada, and had no points in two games. I have always maintained that if young Sid had to play regularly in the Western Conference, especially in the Northwest Division, he would not have been able to put up quite such impressive numbers. But that said, the Penguins seem to be developing into a good team, and so they should, given the number of top draft picks they have had, and the excellent value they have been getting from their young, relatively low paid lads. They have a small window of opportunity here before the salaries of their stars become unmanageable, so they better take advantage. Their weak spot continues to be goaltending. Dany Sabourin played very well against his old team, having had the advantage of being able to learn from Ian Clark and Roberto and to spend most of last season studying the moves of the Canucks shooters. But he probably isn’t the long-awaited answer in net.
And to the nattering nabobs of the NHL I say please stop fussing about size of hockey equipment. You don’t have to have a ton of goals to have a great game. A high score often indicates head-shaking breakdowns somewhere along the line and in no way guarantees a more exciting audience experience. Change the schedule so that we get to see every team every year. That would be a change worth talking about.