Much like that Christmas Turkey that is beginning to appear in nearly unrecognizable forms of leftovers, there's lots more hockey tonight on both fronts. The Canucks head south for the winter to take on Bruce 'Mustard Stain' Boudreau and the mighty bad Ducks, while Team Canada takes on Nicklas Jensen and Team Denmark. Last night we were treated to a couple fine hockey games, weren't we? Team Canada was impressive as they patiently dismantled a game but undisciplined Czech team with a goalie who tried his best to steal the game for them, and the Canucks recovered from coughing up a 2 goal lead to pull one out in overtime, Andrew Ebbett tipping home a Kevin Bieksa point shot for the winner. Good thing the Canucks embellished all those calls in the 3rd period, those dives really... wait... you mean someone else was doing the diving and embellishing??? It's laughable, really. Not only did the Sharks once again prove that they're one of the dirtier teams with the usual parade of hacks, slashes and crosschecks, but they made hypocrites of their fans and themselves with the crap they pulled last night. And that made the win, in a game that had a real playoff feel to it, almost as satisfying as the ones they played back in May...
A lot of people talk about Joe Thornton in a negative light because of his inability to lead his team to anything of note in the post season. Despite being labeled as contenders for the throne for what seems like years now, Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks are known as much for their string of playoff failures than anything else. How Joe continues to get credit for being any type of a leader is truly baffling. Real leaders don't take penalties mere seconds after his team scores to get back into a game. They also don't pull the kind of garbage he did when he repeatedly stuck his fingers into Henrik Sedin's face while the Captains were talking with the referee about penalty calls after a 3rd period scrum. The fact the official allowed it to go unpunished without giving him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is ridiculous. When it comes time to pick the Olympic team for Sochi, I'd rather not see scum like Joe Thornton putting on the maple leaf. I would make fun of this whole embarrassing moment for Joey Stinkfinger, but our pal The Stanchion does it better than anyone else.
Once again, the best player on the ice last night was Roberto Luongo, who battled through a lot of traffic in front on many of his 33 saves. He had a few jaw-droppers last night, and really appears to be back in the form he showed in 2006-07. His glove hand larceny of Joe Pavelski in the first was a beauty, wasn't it? It was Luongo shutting the door that kept the Canucks in it, especially during the 3rd period when the Sharks got 3 power plays during a succession of brutal calls by the officials. It turns out that those calls did end up helping the Canucks, as it left them with some fresh legs heading into overtime. That was why we saw Andrew Ebbett out there in extra time. Kevin Bieksa was definitely in beast mode on that shift, looking to end the game before it got to a shootout, and when Brent Burns inexplicably skated away from Ebbett, leaving him unchecked in front of Antti Niemi. Ebbett's deflection of Bieksa's point shot was perfect, and it allowed the Canucks to skate out of San Jose with 4 of 4 points this season. These teams get a chance to renew hostilities on Jan 2nd at Rogers Arena, and if there aren't a ton of signs referring to Joe Thornton's finger I am going to be thoroughly disappointed.
No rest for the wicked as they say, and the Canucks are right back at it in Orange County, taking on the Ducks tonight at the Honda Center. While their neighbours the Los Angeles Kings are seeing some success with the hiring of Darryl Sutter, the same effect has yet to happen for the Ducks and Bruce Boudreau. They did beat the Sharks in San Jose on Monday, but only have 3 wins in their last 10 games. The Ducks problems are multi-faceted: they're not getting near the kind of goaltending they expected from Jonas Hiller, they are only getting scoring from a handful of players, and the ones that are scoring aren't doing it enough, and the top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan are a combined -36, Getzlaf with a team worst -16. This team doesn't have a prayer of making the playoffs, doesn't have any identity as Boudreau struggles to put his imprint on a team that was fairly one-dimensional in the first place, yet still present a dangerous threat. The Canucks took the Ducks lightly in their last meeting and lost 2 much needed points in the process. Tired or not, they'll have that on their minds as they take to the ice tonight. No lineup changes expected other than Cory Schneider getting the start as expected.
Wednesday's action at the World Junior Championships in Alberta saw the first real upset of the tournament as the highly touted USA squad let a Finnish team hang around for too long, only to have it come back and bite them in the ass. The Finns scored 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd after the US had tied it 1-1 just seconds into the final frame for a 4-1 victory. While the shot margins up until the 3rd were extremely lopsided, the Finns didn't back down an inch from the Americans physically. That's the beauty of Sleeping Giants: the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Team Canada meanwhile faced another stiff test from the Czech Republic, and while the Czechs got a stellar goaltending performance from Petr Mrazek, he could only withstand the storm so long, as the Canadians moved to 2-0 with a 5-0 victory. As good as Mrazek was, Canadian goalie Scott Wedgewood was even better, racking up 26 saves for the shutout. Mark Scheifele scored twice, and they got singles from Mark Stone, Ryan Strome and Brett Connolly.
Canucks prospect Nicklas Jensen and Team Denmark are up next for the Canadian squad, and thanks to the US loss they can likely wrap up first in the B pool. Mark Visentine gets the start for Team Canada, and though coach Don Hay said he won't announce who starts against the Americans until Friday, many are saying it will be Wedgewood who gets the nod. Does that make the game against Team USA meaningless Saturday night? Absolutely not, but it sure as hell will be nice if the Canadians can hand the USA a 2nd loss. In other action yesterday, Sweden needed a shootout to get past Switzerland, and the Russians kept the Slovakians at bay potting the winning goal early in the 3rd for a 3-1 win in Pool A action in Calgary.
BAND OF THE DAY- SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
Straight outta Venice Beach, California come one of the most influential crossover bands, melding punk rock with thrash and speed metal, and bringing skateboarding to mainstream attention. They had a few massive video hits, most notably 'Institutionalized' from their self-titled first album. They got heavier over the years, got ripped off by countless rap-metal bands and are still going strong. The band was banned from performing in LA for a number of years over fears of gang violence at their shows. Here's some of the best of Madman Mike Muir and the Suicidal crew.