A championship team needs three things: a hot goalie, a superstar and a gallant captain. All three were on display Saturday night as the Flames opened their season at home. Oh and one more type of player makes a winner: no bad ones.
Roberto Luongo was in his finest form. Robbing goals from the Flames. Playing sound positionally and simply out-dueling Kiprusoff. Okay, so this was not exactly a goalies duel, but Luongo ultimately won the game by shutting down the Flames when it mattered most. It was a gutsy effort on a night that started badly, felt like it was on its to a blowout, but played out the way that many Canuck wins have played out in the last few season. The come from behind victory, the overtime wins, the grizzled display of character and emotion.
What put the Canucks over the edge to a fairy tight tilt was the physical game they brought. One has to wonder if Rick Rypien is on his way to a Burrows-esque rise this season. He had one excellent bout with Flame Brandon Prust and one beautiful goal (his second in two games) that simply dazzled. Its gushing at this point, and the season is still quite virginal, but the team looks like a winner. They won in offense. They won in defense. They won in pure testicular acumen. I have to give props to Jerome Iginla for his (ultimately losing) effort, especially his fight with Willie Mitchell. He’s a terrific leader and I can’t wait to see him playing in 2010, but even his knock-out punch to Mitchell wasn’t enough to propel Calgary to a win.
What propelled the Vancouver was an out-and-out gorgeous effort and a couple of timely goals from the Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin again. The Sedin’s are searching every year for bonnefide superstar status, and every year they fall a little less shy. Is this year the year? 5 points in 2 games is a tremedous start. NHL player of the week is a pretty good start. And don’t forget Henrik, he has 4 point in 2 games and is on track to once again match his brother in points. Oh and at this point they are both on track to score 160 points each, cheeky I know, but nonetheless an effort on par withto super-stardom.
I was delightfully surprised when Luongo was announced as captain starting this season. Like the Governor General, it is mostly a ceremonial post, but it was also the obvious choice. While most fans and commentators lacked the platitudes to dream of this, Vigneault and Gillis did not. The de facto leadership aside, Kesler, Ohlund and Mitchell led in areas the goalie-captain cannot, suchas punishing physical play and of course goals. Ohlund hit more than I have seen him hit in a long time. He was tying up players and assisted on the winning goal. Kesler chipped in with his pesky shut-down roll by doing what 3rd liner do best: score. Mitchell fought Iginla and looked like the leader he has been touted as for the past two years. There was a read display of gallant captaintry tonight.
Did I mention Bertuzzi? Right, who cares.
So there you have it. Superstar by committee. Rugged leadership by committee. Hot goalie. And, almost most importantly, no bad Vancouver players Saturday night. That’s what really got me thinking I might see Canucks hockey in June.
Next Up — Washington
Joe’s Note — Sorry this is so late. The stamina of writing this blog has already caught up with me. I will be more diligent in the future. Thx.