Sunday afternoon’s ice action featured a beast of a must-see-TV matchup. Ever since the Vancouver Canucks shipped goaltender Roberto Luongo out of town, the hockey world’s rooting interest (including a good chunk of Vancouver citizens) has inherited a Florida Panthers‘ following. The 3:00 p.m. eastern puck drop didn’t even interfere with the NCAA‘s selection show because the hockey gods were in a giving mood.
Now, if only they could have allowed for a John Tortorella post-game media tongue lashing, an always-entertaining event. Even the 27th ranked attendance of the BB&T Center was rocking in this one.
Speaking of media scrums, fans were privy to the all-too-familiar interview runaround beforehand. The “We’re just taking it one game at a time” and “I just want to help the team win” cliche checklist was on full display. Make no mistake, the fact that the Canucks are fighting for a playoff spot stayed in the background; the game’s intrigue factor had everything to do with the ever-present potential downfall of a once intimidating organization, and its former franchise netkeeper seeking retribution.
In a mere 10 months, Vancouver has gone from being the envy of the hockey world, (rostering two of the NHL’s elite), to present day question-marks in its crease. Eddie Lack‘s stretch of 18 goals given up in his five games coming into Sunday doesn’t exactly put the Canucks fanbase at ease.
Not so bold prediction: the New Jersey Devils‘ transition from Martin Brodeur to Cory Schneider is on pace to run smoother than the one of Luongo to Eddie “Lackluster.”
What do the Canucks have to show for it? — A combined package of Luongo’s contract off the books, Shawn Matthias, Jacob Markstrom, Steve Anthony and 2013 first-round draft pick Bo Horvat. Let the rebuilding begin.
Luongo’s career has been a polarizing one, ever since he originally debuted for the New York Islanders in 1999, followed by his first go-around in Florida with a five-year stint in a Panthers uniform. His tenure in Vancouver resulted in a heavyweight performance — in 448 appearances between the pipes, the Montreal native recorded a resume of 252 wins, 137 losses and a .919 save percentage. Yet he still remains one of the rare professional athletes who owns as many believers as he does doubters.
Revenge could not be achieved on Sunday, despite a valiant Panthers’ effort; however, the last laugh will be Luongo’s. With back-to-back resilient performances, Florida is a squad that is finally getting its act together, while in the role-reversal department, the Canucks are in danger of replacing the Panthers on the NHL food chain moving forward. Luongo has become, the great equalizer.
Honorable mention to defenceman Kevin Bieksa‘s game-saving third period kick-save. A beauty coming to a YouTube channel near you.
Hey Tortorella: What’s the hold up? Well, someone is bound to ask a clown question soon enough.