Black Ice Issue #23 — Groin’ Pittsburgh

Roberto Luongo kicked out his left pad as he went down in a harmless butterfly to curb a point shot from Philippe Boucher and got up five minutes later with the help of trainer Mike Burnstein and two of his teammates. After an MRI he was revealed to have an Adductor Strain, which is in the groin. Basically a kick in the balls to Luongo, his team and ultimately us, the fans.

And who to the rescue? Was that Sanford flopping around the ice, repelling rebounds and making a case for height/heart comparisons to Richard Brodeur? I think so. Its funny I always wondered what Curtis Sanford looked like behind that terrible — fan designed — mask. If the wins keep stockpiling as will the media coverage. Consequently, his affable mug will keep appearing in post-game interviews sans awful mask.

The team loves him. The media loves him. The fans like him — for now.

Its a good thing he’s so amiable because it seems for some strange reason that Luongo’s injury has really made the team rally. Perhaps its proof of talent that actually exists in the locker room. Perhaps its a message to the team that they have been riding Luongo and that some of the talent needs to come out of the woodwork. They have more on this team then meets the (bandwagonesque) eye. You don’t just take for granted the fact that you play in front of the world’s best goalie — you build on it.  Yes, Luongo has been stellar of late and yes, I gasped and writhed along with Canuck Nation for those five minutes while Blue was down. But the statement must be poised: perhaps this team is good enough.

Three Items to note.

First, the Canucks beat the Penguins. While down a few gunners from last year, not-to-mention suffering an injury plague lately, this Pittsburgh squad is no joke. They went to the Stanley Cup finals on the backs of Malkin and Crosby, who make up the best one-two combo in the league. The two are combined for 63 points already this season and show no sign of slowing down. Except with the Canucks.

Second, the Sedins and Pavol Demitra  — or the PHD line — as they are positively doctoral in their precision with the puck. At times, during their career, watching the Sedins is like dating a model. When they look good, they are gorgeous, Le Belle Dame Sans Merci. But other times, when they’re just laying around the house watching The Hills, wearing your old sweatsuit and no makeup, you can’t help but think, “Jesus, pull yourselves together”. Nothing is uglier than a model not modeling. Nothing is more dead weight then the Sedins not scoring goals. Enter Pavol Demitra. The slippery Slovak blasted out of the gate and scored 10 points in his last 10 games and has combined with the Sedins for an eye popping 23 points. The re-kilned top-line has sent a message to the league — we are beautiful and we are without mercy.

Third, the brotherhood. The mauling of Curtis Sanford after the win over Minnesota could have been a case of — we’re glad that our backup stole a game for us. Yippee. Move on. As languid as the Canucks play over Pittsburgh was, because in truth neither team played that well, it was the spiritedness (or what Homer referred to as thumos in his epic poems) the vaunted the team through adversity. With the shipment of Naslund and Morrison and the retirement of Linden a leadership deficit existed that has now started to close.

Willie Mitchell is playing the best hockey of his career. He is shutting down teams top lines every game and his easy going, good natured attitude has help some of the younger players flourish. Mattias Ohlund is a horse, Trojan in nature, that sneaks in the opposing teams back door and battles from the inside. Whether he is pinching in off the rush, or standing guard over Luongo’s crease, he is often felt before he is  seen or heard. And when he drops the gloves, I can’t help but fire out a hearty “fuck yeah,” because you know whoever he’s beating deserves the shellacking Ohlund is dishing out. Ryan Kesler is the third cog in the Canucks leadership wheel. I had him pegged for Captain all last year, but when Luongo was eccentrically given the “C” (and rightly deserved), it was team management that had the foresight to see the potential of Kesler and gave him the “A”. It is the domination of these fellows on the ice that keeps the entire squad focused, even as the Captain is convalescing, and cements a burning spirit within the whole group which launches them from win to win.

I get goosebumps when the Canucks are victorious; ire when they loose. As Luongo went down with his groin injury, it was the team that was growing up. This leads to another poised statement: It is not so much if any more with this team, but when.

Next Up — Detroit


Whatcha think?