Sharks shell-Lack Canucks' backup in 5-0 pre-season win
Winless in NHL outings so far, Eddie Lack wants to be judged on regular-season performances
Netminder Eddie Lack of the Vancouver Canucks deflects a shot during Tuesday's National Hockey League game against the Sharks in San Jose, Calif. The hosts had an easy time handling the Canucks at the SAP Center. Vancouver will open its regular season on Oct. 3 in San Jose.
Photograph by: Marcio Jose Sanchez, The Associated Press
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Having watched reporters’ daily feeding frenzy around the locker stall of teammate Roberto Luongo, rookie goaltender Eddie Lack joked Tuesday that he is biologically equipped to handle that kind of blistering glare.
“I’m an only child so I’m used to getting a lot of attention,” the Vancouver Canuck smiled. “I’m just trying to have fun every day and do my best.”
So he is equipped to handle difficult and relentless questions in what former general manager Brian Burke famously dubbed the goalie graveyard?
“I ask myself tough questions, too, and I know (goalie coach) Rollie Melanson is going to be all over me if I play a bad game,” Lack said. “I’ve always just focused on my part and what I can do. You guys in the media make things a little bigger, too, so I’ve just been focusing on my part here and doing my best every day.”
Tuesday night wasn’t his best. Nor was it for the Canucks, who failed the mental and physical test of playing on back-to-back nights by losing 5-0 to the San Jose Sharks.
Lack allowed the five goals on 33 shots, remaining winless in the National Hockey League pre-season and entirely unproven in the best league in the world.
Yet, by default, he appears to be on the Canucks’ opening-night roster — an injury to Luongo away from starting in the NHL.
“I’ve been working for this my whole life,” Lack said before Tuesday’s game, his third and last of the Canucks’ six-game pre-season. “I want to prove it to myself first and show I’m ready for this.
“I’ve been playing in the minors now for 2½ years and feel like I’ve proven myself down there and feel like I’m ready to try this next step. I’m just looking forward to getting into the regular season.”
Canuck fans, probably not so much.
Vancouver is 1-4 in pre-season games during the transition to new coach John Tortorella, and the Canucks scored more goals in their only win (6-1 Monday against the Phoenix Coyotes) than all their losses combined. Three of the four losses were not close.
Lack didn’t look NHL-ready on Tuesday although the same could be said about the team in front of him.
He was unlucky on a pair of ricochets credited as goals to Tomas Hertl, and should have done better on Dan Boyle’s short-side shot in the first period. But Lack’s biggest failure was his inability to make a big save or two to change momentum and help his team when it began listing halfway through the opening frame after an unlucky play and terrible giveaway by Vancouver defenceman Yannick Weber spotted the Sharks a 2-0 lead.
“You never want to let in five goals as a goalie,” Lack said after the game. “(But) I don’t really think about wins and losses during the pre-season. I’m just trying to work as hard as I can and get the feeling there (for playing) and seeing the puck well. If I go three games without a win in a regular season, come back and ask me about it.”
Asked about the Canucks’ performance, winger Daniel Sedin summarized: “We made a few mistakes that really hurt us. This is too good a team to make those mistakes. With the team we had tonight, we should be better. That’s the bottom line.”
Lack needs to be better, too.
“He fought hard,” Tortorella said. “He was good at times and struggled at other times but I thought he fought right through the game.”
The great Swedish backup battle never materialized in training camp, as the Canucks dispatched third-string netminder Joacim Eriksson to their American Hockey League farm team on Saturday.
Lack was in net for Vancouver’s 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers that night.
The backup job was always Lack’s to lose, and he hasn’t lost it. But his grip on the NHL, for now, is hardly secure.
Even had Lack not required major hip surgery in January — the 25-year-old hasn’t played a game that mattered since November — there would be questions about a rookie backup being used by a team that still believes it can win a Stanley Cup.
Deposed for a year by Cory Schneider, Olympic gold-medallist Luongo was the Canucks’ safety net in goal last year. Luongo has played 747 NHL games and has 348 NHL wins. Lack has zero and zero.
“Your backup goalie is so important,” Tortorella said before Tuesday’s game. “He not only needs to play, he needs to get points in the standings for you. These are important times for (Lack).
“He has been banged up. He hasn’t played a lot. If we’re going to do the things we want to do, you need two goalies. I’m not playing Roberto 82 games. This is an important time for (Lack), to get his work and for me to see what he is.”
Tortorella couldn’t possibly have liked much of what he saw Tuesday. He admitted the Canucks were “sluggish” after playing Monday at home.
The game was a pre-season stamina test for the Canucks — and a chance to gauge their give-a-darn meter for exhibition hockey. Playing for the second time in two nights, something the Canucks will do 17 times during the Olympics-condensed regular-season schedule, Vancouver treated San Jose as a day trip.
Canuck legs worked fine straight off the plane, as Vancouver outskated San Jose early on and generated the better scoring chances through 10 minutes.
But Weber appeared to deflect the puck into his own net at 10:37 when he reached to block Scott Hannan’s goalmouth shot-pass. On his next shift, Weber turned over the puck in the Vancouver slot before Boyle made it 2-0 on a wrister at 12:28. Suddenly, the Canucks looked tired.
Vancouver’s final exhibition game is Thursday at home against the New York Rangers. Luongo will play that one while Lack watches and everyone waits to see what happens when the regular season begins.
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