Canucks 4 @ Flames 3 (OT – SO)
The Canucks won another hard-earned two points against the Flames tonight. It was a great game to watch, as both teams played exciting hockey, while both goalies were tremendous with their highlight-reel saves.
Kesler repays the coach for his ice-time with two goals, and Burrows was a bulldozer out there tonight, leveling everyone in red shirts, including ex-canuck Todd Bertuzzi. The team showed great resilience again. Trailing two times against a top team like the flames, they were still very patient and wouldn’t give up when they were down. Late period goals in the first and the third are confidence builders for players and coaches, and I think these are definitely good signs of more to come for the team.
But aside from game stats, I want to talk about Luongo for a bit, as I think everyone knows Roberto embraces challenge. He is often at his best when playing against a team with a top goalie. This was just the case tonight against Mikka Kiprusoff.
I wrote in my previous posts that Luongo seems rusty, even during the 4-games winning streak, and especially the game against the Canadiens. A common excuse was that Luongo has never battled against a long injury like he did this year, and the long rest resembles the off season to him, so he needs some time to get back to his usual “November” form.
He may have did just that tonight, and Kiprusoff was exactly the spark he needed to push himself up a notch. His play during the first period was spectacular, and if it wasn’t for Kiprusoff’s sensational third period performance, he would surely be voted as the best goalie in this game.
Luongo seems very focused tonight, and his shut-out in the shoot-out showed that his confidence is back. The Canucks need their captain to be at his best down the stretch, and his recent improvement cannot come at a better timing. A goaltender’s confidence creates interactive effects across every players. When the players have confidence in their goalie, they can forecheck a bit harder, move out of their zone faster and score more often. The best defense is offense, and if the Canucks can establish an early lead, this will affect Luongo’s play as well. He can challenge players more, stand out of his crease more, thus reducing the room for scorers to shoot at.
Anyways, with the Oilers losing to the Sharks, the Canucks now sit at the 5th spot in the West, one point ahead of sixth-placed Stars, who still have one game in the hands. The Canucks will continue their road trip across Canada, starting with the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday.
Hopefully the Canucks will build on Luongo’s confidence, and if they can continue to play disciplined hockey, they have a good chance at building another winning streak on the road. Watch closely on Canucks’ captain to continue improving and regain his mid-season form.