After going through an abysmal month of November, the Vancouver Canucks seem to have hit their winning stride again this December. Initially, they’ve made it hard on themselves to get victories, blowing 2-0 leads on a couple of occasions. Despite this, Coach John Tortorella continues to preach a complete 60-minute game to his team and it appears they’re getting the message. With plenty of player movement due to injuries (e.g. Alex Burrows’ jaw), trying to play a complete game with an ever-changing roster has been difficult to manage.
However, it’s been regular veterans like Ryan Kesler a.k.a. #BEASTMODE, Chris Higgins, Roberto Luongo, and the Sedin Twins that have continued to step up and have started to turn their season around. Contributions from Jason Garrison and Mike Santorelli have also helped during this winning streak. Leading up to the 2011 rubber match at home against the Boston Bruins on December 14, the Canucks hold an impressive 6-0-0 record, having not given more than two goals per game.
I say it before and I’ll say it again: goaltending has never been a problem in Vancouver. The duo act of Roberto Luongo & Eddie Lack are doing their part to try and give the Canucks a chance to win, and they have. I didn’t know Lack until watching the CBC’s After Hours segment, which was enjoyable. Who knew that he could hold a Sarah McLachlan tune so well?
It was great to see Eddie Lack backstop the Canucks for a couple of those wins, coincidentally both against the Carolina Hurricanes. In his first home start on December 9, he earned his first shutout. Even when the Canes mounted some pressure in the third period, Lack held his cool.
Did you know that he’s a fan of the Swedish Chef? His image is on the back of this goalie mask.
The Rubber Match
On the heels of his 65th career shutout against the Edmonton Oilers the night before, Luongo was primed for the Bruins’ first game in Vancouver since the infamous Game Seven debacle over two years ago. The Canucks in front of him played with a mission in mind. After being knocked by Jarome Iginla, Kesler engaged him in a fight that sparked the already much-hated rivalry. Kevin Bieksa gave some liberties toward Brad Marchand.
The Canucks’ first goal by Jannick Hansen was a fluky floater that deflected thanks to Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. That fluke pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game for the Bruins.
Even though Reilly Smith tied the game in the second period, the Canucks didn’t waver. Instead, they stepped up the pressure and were rewarded by David Booth’s streaking shot from the left wing. Booth certainly played like he had something to prove. From that point forward, the Canucks didn’t relent. Goals from Higgins, Yannick Weber (his 1st), Henrik, and Chris Tanev (on a shorthander) made it no-contest. The Canucks impressed with the 6-2 victory, setting the stage for more great things to come in the latter half of the month.
The players credited Tortorella’s timeout for sparking the team. It allowed them to refocus and re-energize their attack on Boston. Kesler said, “You see how passionate he gets. I think that passion bleeds into this team. It was a wake-up call and guys respect him.”
When a team responds to his coach, good things happen.