Vancouver still able to defy all odds
Game Night: Two more forwards go down, but team getting positive results by riding their stars - for now
John Tortorella is fond of saying he doesn't care how many minutes his players put in, he's just concerned about winning the next game.
Let's examine how that's working out for him.
Going into St. Louis on Friday night, with a dwindling number of forwards and even fewer the coach wants to put on the ice, the Canucks will clearly not be the favourite against the big, bustling Blues after a long Thursday night flight and getting to the Show Me state in the early hours.
In fact, it would have to be considered something of a miracle if they were to pull any points out of this tilt against a miserable, bumping team like St. Louis.
The focus should be more on survival at this point, although they may not see it that way. Not this crew, which somehow managed to pull out a win against the odds in Jersey, albeit they needed some of Cory Schneider's puck-handling skills to help them get started on their first goal.
And who knows? This team will talk about beating the odds, make an effort, and miracles happen. But on form, it figures they'll finish up this road trip with a loss, but in great shape with respect to how many points they've earned. Anything out of St. Louis would be an unexpected windfall.
That's good, and it's actually a little better start than most Vancouver teams the past couple of seasons. After all, most all of Alain Vigneault's teams were worse on paper at this time of year, and they hadn't endured a monstrous road trip to the east in the bargain. Roberto Luongo wasn't playing nearly as well as he did Thursday night, and if you were looking at just the factual record, you'd be feeling pretty good about this team.
But there's a difference this year. In previous years with what is largely the same team, the Sedins hadn't been playing 21 minutes plus a night and Ryan Kesler wasn't handling anywhere near this many minutes. And just about everyone in uniform regardless of their ability level was playing pretty consistently.
The minutes were nowhere near even, of course, but at least they were getting out, and this set the team up for strong runs for the rest of the regular season. But down to nine forwards and the three stars at or over 30 years of age and logging huge ice times, how does this team make any kind of run when you don't have the nice Northwest division to console you? Dale Weise and the recently scratched David Booth were the latest to go down on this trip, further adding to the ice time of the remaining troops, the latter getting hurt on what certainly looked like a harmless play. It made you wonder whether after being benched Tuesday he decided to scratch himself from the expected ordeal tonight.
But no matter how innocently the injuries happen, the workload continues to build on those remaining, and this coach continues to try to defy reason and worry only about the next game. It's working against the odds right now because everyone is still fresh, they're getting a lot of breaks and Luongo is having perhaps his best October.
You can argue Tortorella doesn't have options, because when forwards get hurt the team seems to call up a defenceman - which certainly makes a lot of sense given the coach doggedly refuses to use defencemen Andrew Alberts or Yannick Weber up front despite the dwindling bodies.
Alex Burrows will be back soon, perhaps he'll even try to play on Friday night given his excellent history in St. Louis, and that would help, but how many of these exhausted skaters are going to get zapped tonight against the Blues at the end of a seven game tour in the fifth game in seven nights? Like the Jack Nicholson movie, Something's Gotta Give. Is this the night one of the Sedins gets hurt or Kesler goes down? Probably not.
The next night perhaps, after the trip when reinforcements arrive and people begin to relax a little bit? Who knows? Maybe they defy the odds all year and somehow the top three tip-toe through a whole season this way. But you'd get pretty long odds on that in Vegas.
And there's no need to discuss what happens when one of these three go down.
Head online to
provincesports.com There's lots more about Thursday's Canucks-Devils game on our White Towel blog at thewhitetowel.ca.
Like, for instance, Jason Botchford's patented Van Provies awards. Who said what? Whose tweets stood out? And what are the stories lurking below the surface? Check out the Provies this morning at the White Towel.
There you'll also find the latest post-game Canucks Hat Trick, this time served up by Tony Gallagher.
Also on the White Towel: Jim Jamieson shares the story of the AHL Charlotte Checkers' Manny Malhotra. Yes, that Manny Malhotra - and you'll love the story.
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