Dalpe gamble pays off big

 

Depth centre thought Tortorella was kidding after tapping him for first-line role

 
 
 
 
Centre Zac Dalpe, left, shown battling with Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester on Friday, was key as the Canucks ended a five-game losing skid.
 

Centre Zac Dalpe, left, shown battling with Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester on Friday, was key as the Canucks ended a five-game losing skid.

Photograph by: The Canadian Press Files, The Province

The hockey gods can have a cruel sense of humour.

Consider for a moment, Dale Weise won the Canucks skills competition for the second consecutive year as the team's fastest skater.

"I don't know if there's a secret. I'm just really fast," he quipped.

Even with those blessed wheels, Weise has just three goals and remains - maybe forever - type cast as a fourth-line winger. Cruel, indeed.

Jason Garrison killed it Saturday too, breaking the team record with a 105 m.p.h. slap shot.

Unfortunately, with that cannon, he leads the Canucks defencemen with 53 missed shots. (Dan Hamhuis is a distant second with 35.) And, with that cannon, Garrison has as many goals (five) as Chris Tanev.

Now, that does seem a little cruel, too.

But luck changes, over the course of a season and over the course of a career.

Just take Zac Dalpe. The most games Carolina's 2008 second-round draft pick ever played in a season for the Hurricanes was 16. He's already logged 29 with the Canucks.

Most of them have been nondescript. Work hard, don't screw up too badly, and stay in the lineup. Considering he's spent most of the past three years in the AHL, even that has been an accomplishment.

But on Friday, Dalpe was more.

He was the catalyst in an improbable 2-1 win against the hottest team in hockey.

"Maybe, sometimes, the hockey gods point your way a little bit," Dalpe said.

"They reward you for some hard shifts, and some hard work.

"That's the way I'm going to explain it."The St. Louis Blues had strutted into Rogers Arena breathing pure fire. They had scored 21 goals in four games and had won nine of 10.

The Canucks had lost five in a row and needed a win, desperately, before going back to that bear trap in California where they are set to play the L.A. Kings and the Anaheim Ducks this week.

Early in Friday's game, the Blues looked every bit the juggernaut their recent record suggests they are.

They outshot the Canucks 11-3. The Canucks couldn't even seem to contain the Blues' fourth line. With about five minutes left in the first, the Blues seemed to be preparing to drag the Canucks to the woodshed.

Then, John Tortorella caught Dalpe's attention.

"Dalps, you're going with the Sedins," the coach said on the bench. Dalpe thought he was joking. Seriously.

But it was a move that helped shift the game.

With the Sedins, Dalpe immediately had two good puck-possession shifts to close out the first.

Then, on his first shift to start the second, Dalpe had his second goal of the season, and the Canucks had a 1-0 lead.

Dalpe would later say it was a lucky play. His stick in just the right spot to tip one in at just the right time. It doesn't matter. The Canucks needed it. Desperately.

"I don't think anyone has played well with the (Sedins)," Tortorella said.

"Michael (Santorelli) fought it real early in the game. I thought (Chris Higgins) was fighting it.

"We just changed things up, and I think Dalps played pretty well with them."

Every thing Dalpe has got this year, he's earned.

"I've been through ups and downs, just staying in the lineup," Dalpe said. "I'm not saying my spot is secure, but I see with some hard work here, I can gain some traction."

It's the way it's gone with Tortorella. Meet expectations and stay in the lineup. Wildly underachieve, like David Booth, and you're out.

Booth wasn't with his team at Saturday's skills competition. He isn't expected to be in the lineup Monday against the Kings either.

Dalpe will be. He played 14:15, by far the most of his season.

Will he start Monday's big game against the Kings back with the Sedins? Why not? "He was very good. He has some skill, he has some wheels and he can skate," Henrik Sedin said. "He held onto pucks. It was fun."

The Sedins haven't had a lot of fun since Alex Burrows broke his jaw.

jbotchford@theprovince.com twitter.com/@botchford

 
 
 
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Centre Zac Dalpe, left, shown battling with Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester on Friday, was key as the Canucks ended a five-game losing skid.
 

Centre Zac Dalpe, left, shown battling with Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester on Friday, was key as the Canucks ended a five-game losing skid.

Photograph by: The Canadian Press Files, The Province

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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