Saturday, September 11, 2004


Oh my goodness.

If hockey goes away for a long time, at least we had a game like this one to watch as a sendoff. If the World Cup final on Tuesday is anything like this one, it's going to be epic. This was the best game I've kept track of since games 6 and 7 of last spring's Calgary/Vancouver series.

It was revealed before the game that Martin Brodeur wouldn't suit up due to a wrist injury he suffered in the 3rd period of their last game against Slovakia. As a result, Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers was in net tonight. Kelly Hrudey on the CBC crew noted that Team Canada's defensemen would have to adjust to Luongo's style of smothering as opposed to kicking out harmless rebounds, and his not playing the puck as much as Brodeur. Brian Burke during the pregame said that it'd be important for Canada to bang and be physical.

Robert Pomakov, the anthem singer that haunts me in my dreams, sang the Czech national anthem.

Paulina Gretzky sang "O Canada." As lovely as she was, I realized what I like about the Canadian national anthem -- usually when I hear it, it's sung straight and note-for-note. Gretzky's 15-year-old daughter (who also sang a Sarah McLachlan tune at the outdoor game in Edmonton earlier this year) was, shall I say, "Americanizing" it; you know when singers try to put all these vocal runs and embellishments into "The Star-Spangled Banner"? That's what Paulina Gretzky did with "O Canada" tonight, and after listening to seventy-plus Canuck games and just as many renditions of "O Canada," I wasn't used to it. In an instance of total nit-picking, Paulina was off-key on one word toward the end (either "Canada" or "guard"), but the crowd had erupted into full cheering by that point.

But now, to what really matters. The game. Once again, times are approximate.

Before I go on, I must say that after this game, the Czechs have nothing to be ashamed about (other than maybe that first game). They were a step faster than Team Canada for much of the night, and when Jagr was shut down, the Czechs didn't stop getting chances, and quite a lot of chances.

18:45 Joe Sakic shoots for the top corner but misses wide
15:44 Adam Foote brushes the post with a shot from the blue line
15:33 Luongo got his glove on a deflected puck in the air
~13:00 Jarome Iginla made some very nifty moves, but couldn't get a shot off
12:15 Luongo made a stick save on a close-range shot by Jaromir Jagr

The game started out fast-paced, and the Czechs were getting a lot of rushes.

11:05 Brad Richards sent a centering pass through the crease and out the other side
10:18 Dany Heatley ripped a shot in close through traffic that Vokoun stopped
9:53 Luongo stopped a shot from the blue line
9:05 Heatley ripped a shot off the draw that was gloved by Vokoun
8:27 Roman Hamrlik shot one from his own blue line that Luongo didn't make the cleanest save on
7:08 Patrik Elias' wrist shot from the left circle went off Luongo's left shoulder

The CBC crew made a note at this point about how well Robyn Regehr was defending Jagr and how he was sticking with Jagr even when he didn't have the puck.

3:14 Martin Rucinsky deflected a puck too high over the net from the right side
1:11 Jagr put a move on a defenseman, but was stopped by the belly of Luongo
0:39 Vokoun made a stick save on a close shot by Iginla
0:11 Luongo stopped a Hamrlik shot through traffic

The Czechs controlled much of the play in the period and led in the shot department 10-7.

After all agreeing this was the best game of the tournament, the crew had some comments. Kelly Hrudey noted that Jagr was the best player on the ice in the first period, that the Czechs thought they were going to win, that Vokoun looked a bit shaky, and that Jay Bouwmeester may have been the best defenseman for Canada so far. Brian Burke said that Canada was banging like he thought they would, and that all the Canadian rushes were countered by fierce backchecking by the Czechs. Ron McLean thought the officials were great (zero penalties were called in the period) and that he was nervous for Paulina Gretzky.

19:27 Joe Thornton's try off the rebound from the left side was stopped by Vokoun
18:50 Luongo stopped a shot from the blue line
18:32 Elias' shot from the left wing (short side) wing boards was stopped
16:17 Luongo came up with a huge stop on Jiri Dopita in front; play was aided by Radek Dvorak making a pass to Dopita while on his chest behind the net
14:58 Kris Draper fired a point shot, and Shane Doan raced toward the net hoping for a rebound. Vokoun held on
14:42 Martin Havlat made some nice moves, and Luongo flashed the stick
12:49 Luongo stopped Jagr on the short side (right)
10:16 Mario Lemieux had a breakaway, but stumbled a bit, and Vokoun came 40 feet out of the net and poked the puck away
9:49 Iginla's long shot was stopped
**8:45 Eric Brewer raced in off the line and went to the top of the crease, where Kris Draper's centering pass came from the end boards and he pounded it in (CAN 1-0)
8:35 The Czechs came roaring back quick, and Luongo came up with big saves off Elias and David Vyborny
6:08 On a Canadian power play, Sakic fanned on the puck
**5:35 Still on a Canadian power play, Vokoun stopped Heatley, but was left out of position to stop Lemieux on the second chance (CAN 2-0). There were four seconds left in the penalty
**4:53 Petr Cajanek threw a puck toward the crease that went off Luongo's right skate and in (CAN 2-1). It's possible that it might have gone off a defenseman's skate as well, judging by Luongo's reaction
4:29 Vokoun smothered a loose puck in the crease
3:37 Simon Gagne was stopped from the right circle

Guest panelist John Davidson said that the Canadians took over with 12 minutes left in the period thanks to a good shift by the top line of Lemieux, Iginla, and Sakic.

**12:39 On a Czech power play after Vincent Lecavalier was called for pulling Hamrlik's shirt, Tomas Kaberle fired a shot from the point which was stopped, but Havlat was just left of the crease, and went high to the stick side to tie the game (2-2)
12:08 Heatley was stopped from somewhat close range as Vokoun was lying on his back
11:09 Luongo made a big stop off a draw in his own zone
9:21 A wide-open close shot by Milan Hejduk was stopped by Luongo
9:01 Luongo lost his stick, but made a pad stop on a shot

Those last two entries were absolutely marvelous for Vokoun. My short one-line anecdotes cannot fully convey this. I'm not sure who was calling the game for the CBC, but the color guy (Millen?) said the Canadians looked like they were "skating in quicksand."

6:52 Thornton shot high and wide
**6:13 On a break, Kris Draper went top shelf on the left side (glove) with a nasty slapshot and beat Vokoun, who flat missed the puck (CAN 3-2). Hrudey said after the period that Vokoun went down too early in anticipation of the shot. Davidson later suggested that Vokoun may have been deked when Draper looked to his right before he fired the shot, possibly faking an upcoming pass
**6:07 The crowd hadn't even sat down yet. Straight off the faceoff at center ice, the puck was bumped into the Canadian zone and Elias fired a shot through traffic that snuck through and possibly knuckled on Luongo to tie the game (3-3)
5:42 Lemieux was pad-stopped from the left circle
3:25 One of the Czechs centered a puck through the crease
1:30 Havlat was stopped by Luongo's chest, and the rebound was not juicy
0:30 Jaroslav Spacek came up with a nice poke check to stop Heatley on a breakaway
0:17 Vokoun stopped the puck amidst a flurry of traffic, jabs, and loose pucks in front of the net
0:06 Martin Straka went wide left

My heart was racing and I didn't even have a rooting interest in this game. It was incredible.

The CBC panel all thought the call on Lecavalier was stupid. Davidson noted how the Czechs were coming up with great chances right after Canada was scoring their goals. McLean thought Bouwmeester and Heatley were looking good. Brian Burke talked to Marek Malik, one of his now former players, and he said they were jetlagged. They didn't play like it though.

19:23 Vyborny's shot from the left side off the faceoff was stopped by Luongo's skate
18:32 Luongo stacked the pads on a close shot which was fed by a Cajanek centering pass
17:56 Thornton was all alone and put one over the crossbar
17:14 Sakic from the right circle had a shot deflect high off a Czech defenseman's stick
16:39 Luongo came up with another big save, I think this one was off of Vyborny. Attention was not paid because soon after...
**16:15 Lecavalier came from behind the boards and put a shot on the net. He eventually got a second chance and beat Vokoun to the glove (far) side (CAN 4-3). Lecavalier was standing on the end line when he made the shot. A close analogy to this would be standing on the baseline in basketball and trying to hit a shot without nailing the side of the backboard.

What an absolutely great game. Thoroughly enjoyable. Midway through the third period, I was hoping it would go to overtime just because the game was so entertaining, much more so than the USA/Finland game from the night before.

Davidson after the game said that it was important for Lecavalier to score after being nailed with the penalty that led to the Havlat goal. Brian Burke said that this could have been a very easy game for Canada to lose. He's right. The Czechs controlled much of this game, and were sometimes dominating. They just never led. The Finns against the United States are still the only team in the tournament to force a lead change.

Looks like I can try to let my euphoria rest a bit and go watch the Mariners.

CBC's three stars: Vincent Lecavalier, Roberto Luongo, Patrik Elias

It's Finland versus Canada on Tuesday at 4:30pm from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Hockey, please don't go.

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