There aren’t too many figures in sports more lovable than Eddie Lack.
Seriously, it’s a complete mystery that Bill Peters was able to avoid his charm. How could any coach turn away Lack for a start once he cracks a smile?
While it’s clear that Peters’ questionable nature as a decent human being clouded his decision-making, it’s abundantly clear that Lack enjoyed his best stretch of hockey as a member of Vancouver Canucks. He overcame an injury riddled 2012-13 campaign in which he played 13 AHL games to play 41 games as a 25-year-old rookie for the Canucks in 2013-14.
There were lots of smiles and moments that were easy to cheer for when it came to Lack. Here’s a collection of some of those below.
First NHL Win
Lack was tested often in his duel between himself and Flames goaltender Joey MacDonald. The Canucks were outshot 36 to 28 in the game, but Mike Santorelli’s overtime winner allowed Lack to secure his first win in the NHL.
The Lack Dance
One of the better trademarks among NHL goalies after a win was Lack’s signature “Lack Dance.”
Really, does any other goalie have a memorable move after a win, other than Elvis Merzlikins?
The signature jig reflected Lacks’ infectious personality, and his moves even created a little online competition in 2012 for who could create the best lack dance.
The winner even came up with a song to go along with it.
First NHL Shutout in First Home Start
Amazingly enough, Lack’s first five NHL starts and seven appearances were all on the road. It wasn’t until December 9th, 2013 that he earned a home start against the Carolina Hurricanes. He made 31 saves for the shutout, thanks to Chris Tanev’s game-winning goal and Jannik Hansen’s empty-netter.
Perhaps his dominance against the Hurricanes planted the seed for them to acquire him as a starter. Six days before his first NHL shutout, Lack and the Canucks beat the Hurricanes for a 3-2 win.
Lack Becomes an NHL Starter
It was clear by the time the Heritage Classic rolled around on March 2nd, 2014, that John Tortorella had completely lost his grasp on the team. As a whole, the Canucks couldn’t score, and that was reflected in Lacks’ record.
During his first 12 games, Lack had a 7-2 record with a .933 save percentage. Over his next 12 appearances leading up to the winter classic, Lack had a 2-6-4 record, but he still sported an admirable .920 save percentage.
Think about this: In those 12 games, on six (!!) occasions, Lack allowed one goal or less. One of his two wins was a shutout victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Before the winter classic, Lack did have better numbers (9-8-4, .925 SV%) than Luongo (19-16-6, .917 SV%) on the season. Luongo did also just return from the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Nonetheless, the decision to start Lack and bench Luongo was a slap in the face for Lu, but it’s hard to say that Tortorella’s decision didn’t benefit Vancouver. Luongo was, of course, traded for the Canucks current starter, Jacob Markstrom.
Lack back where he started for 2014-15
After entering the 2013-14 season with zero NHL games played, Lack finished the season as the starting netminder. He also stuck around as the Canucks fired the coach and general manager following the abysmal end to Tortorella’s tenure.
However, he once again became the back-up after the Canucks signed Ryan Miller in the 2014 offseason. Lack looked pedestrian at first, losing his first three starts, but he became stronger as the season went on, posting a 4-3-2 record with a .929 SV% over his next ten appearances. That included a shutout on the road against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, along former Canuck-greats Christian Ehrhoff and Andrew Ebbett.
“The Stork” shines in starting role
Part of the reason why it was hard for Lack get starts early in 2014-15 was because Ryan Miller just kept winning. Despite Miller’s average .910 SV%, he was 16-4 during his first 20 games as a Canuck.
By the time Miller went down with injury against the New York Islanders on February 22nd, 2015, he had the better record at 28-15-4, but his .913 SV% was lower than Lack’s .917 SV%. As mentioned above, Lack was also the hotter goaltender at that point in the season.
That only continued as Lack played the bulk of games for Vancouver as they marched back to the playoffs. From Miller’s injury to the end of the season, Lack went 12-6-2 with a .927 SV%. He stopped 64 of 65 shots in his final two games against the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes, which helped the Canucks clinch their first playoff birth since 2012-13.
Playoff “Stork” earns postseason playing time
Miller returned for the final game of the regular season, but Lack undoubtedly earned the opportunity to be the Canucks starting goaltender for the beginning of the 2015 playoffs.
From Miller’s injury to the end of the season, Vancouver’s 30 points was fourth-highest in the NHL. They accomplished this despite giving up the sixth-most shots in the NHL.
Lack performed well in his first playoff game, stopping 28 of 30 shots. The Canucks however, did lose in crushing fashion when Kris Russell scored with 30 seconds remaining.
Game Two was another litmus test to see if Lack could handle the pressure. In this contest, he performed admirably despite the 166 minutes of penalties.
Seriously, what an insane hockey game.
He almost held on for the shutout, but Canuck-nemesis Kris Russell buried the Flames lone goal with less than four minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, the leash started to tighten for Lack in Game Three, something that was bound to happen if he slipped with Miller on the bench. He allowed four goals on 28 shots in Game Three, and was replaced by Miller after a shaky start to Game Four.
Nonetheless, it was quite the journey for someone who, two years prior, was rehabbing a serious hip injury at the age of 24, without an NHL start to his name.
The Legend of Lack will live on
Despite his rather short tenure in Vancouver, it didn’t take long for Lack to earn respect in the eyes of Canucks fans with his goofy demeanor and fun-loving personality.
He also gave Canucks fans another underdog story to cheer for. After going undrafted, after battling injuries in the minors, Lack was still able to play 100+ games in the NHL over five seasons.
To be frank, he was damn good in Vancouver as well. No one was happy to see him traded, even if it turned out to be the right decision for the Canucks in the long run.
Despite the fact that he’s been gone from Vancouver for five years, the legend of Eddie Lack will live on for a long time in the hearts and minds of Canucks fans.
So from us here at Nucks Misconduct, and from Canucks fans everywhere, thanks for the memories Eddie, and all the best in retirement.