The Rubber Band Effect
Of all the traits the Canucks have shown since emerging from their mid-season slumber, nothing has served them better than their collective resilience. They have become the ultimate bend but don't break' hockey club.
In Friday's second game of this opening round chess match, Dallas opened the scoring and was able to extend its lead with a second period goal. But Sunday, despite surrendering the first goal again, the Canucks were steadfast in their refusal to fall behind by a pair.
There are pivotal points in all hockey games and even more so in each playoff series. You have to admit that late in the second period and early in the third in Game 3 at American Airlines Center had the feel of such a stretch. Had the Stars managed to push their lead to 2-0, they would have had every opportunity to go into that prevent defense they've perfected and the Canucks would have been forced to score three goals to win a hockey game when it looked like they were going to be hard-pressed to get one.
But rather than searching for the panic button, the Canucks did what they've done all season - they drew inspiration from their superstar goalie and found a way to win a hockey game in which they were the second best team on the ice for much of the night.
Sunday in Dallas, Roberto Luongo again did what he's done so many times this season - provided the guys in front of him with the kind of goaltending that said "they may have got one past me, but there's just no way they're going to get another." You could see the resolve in his body language - much the same way he stood so tall in the marathon series opener. And true to his word on Sunday, Luongo kept the Canucks in the game until they were able to get things going.
Since Christmas, the Canucks have yielded the first goal of a hockey game 22 times. Amazingly, they've given up the second goal in those games on just six occasions. That's 22 times the opponent has struck first and seemingly seized momentum and the upper hand in those hockey games. But 16 times Roberto Luongo has done his thing - and on some nights, was forced to do his thing for a while - until the Canucks provided him with some offence. Now, they didn't always win those games, but they continually gave themselves a chance.
That is resilience.
While all teams want to score first, it doesn't always happen. But one thing good teams do is to find a way to keep themselves in hockey games by settling down and battling back. And Sunday night in Dallas was just the latest example of what the Canucks have done so many times in the second half of the season.
You could see the game starting to change late in the second period and into the third. Luongo was standing tall and the Canucks knew if they could get one goal past Marty Turco, that two would probably be all they'd need. Sure enough, it was.
Including the regular season, the Canucks have now played in 16 games this year that ended 2-1 - Sunday night's overtime victory bumped their record in those games to an impressive 11-3-2. And Game 3 of this series followed the same script of many of those tight games during the year - a commitment to the team system, a strong resolve to find a way to win and, above all else, outstanding netminding.
Oh, and as if Canucks fans needed any more reason to pray at the altar of Roberto Luongo, here's one more. In just three NHL playoff starts, Luongo has already done something only two other Canuck goalies have done in the 37-year history of the franchise. Luongo has joined Kirk McLean (three overtime wins vs Calgary in 1994) and Dan Cloutier (two overtime wins vs Minnesota in 2003) as the only guys to record more than one overtime win in a playoff series.
Not bad. Two trips to overtime, two wins and another spot in the Canucks record book. Maybe Luongo should be the word of the day. Nah, we'll stick with resilience. We'll save Luongo for tomorrow's word of the day - and perhaps Thursday's, too.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at email@example.com