LET THE GAMES BEGIN
At long last, I can hardly believe February 16th is finally here.
In case you've been under a rock or too caught up in The Bachelor (I would have picked Ali...), men's hockey begins today at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games starting with USA versus Switzerland at 12 p.m. (PST).
There are three games on the docket on Tuesday featuring a pair of Canucks; Ryan Kesler will take the ice for the Americans, while in a surprise move, netminder Roberto Luongo gets the start in goal for Canada when they face Norway at 4:30 p.m. (PST). The final game of the day has Russia up against Latvia, puck drops at 9:00 p.m. (PST).
Canucks.com reporter Derek Jory has set up shop in the press box and he'll be reporting the good, the bad and the ugly after each game, with added emphasis on the seven Canucks sporting their country's colours at the Games.
Be sure to check the Canucks Report early and often for in-depth analysis and behind-the-scenes access to the games not available anywhere else (okay that's a lie, but our coverage will be better. Pinkie swear).
LUI SHUTS THE DOOR
(Click here for replay of Canada vs. Norway)
There was a lot of confused spectators in Canada Hockey Place Tuesday afternoon when Team Canada took on Team Norway.
Part of the reason for the puzzlement was Canada’s opening period in which they failed to find the back of the net, the other was why fans were booing every time Team Canada netminder Roberto Luongo made a save.
The Canadians put up three goals in the second period and five in the third for an 8-0 win over the Norwegians and in the end it was clear the those weren’t boos, they were Luus, a cheer saluting the Canucks netminder for his shutout performance.
”The fans were great and I was really pumped up to play in front of them and obviously they were very supportive the whole game,” smiled Luongo after a 15-save performance that forced him to be Luongo-eske twice at most.
“There was much more electricity in the air, this is big for Canada and for Vancouver, you definitely felt the electricity, kind of felt like a playoff game.”
As the game played out action was almost exclusively in the Norway end, with the exception of a few rushes down the ice that resulted in nothing more than marginal saves for Luongo.
Lui’s best stop came in the third period off a left pad save on Tore Vikingstad on a Norway power play; the netminder followed it up by filling the net with his big frame forcing Patrick Thoresen to put the rebound high and wide.
“There’s not a lot of action, but I think I was more tired skating to the bench for penalties and skating out to the corners to play the puck than anything else,” joked Luongo, who is now 2-1-0 in Olympic play dating back to the 2006 Games in Torino.
Martin Brodeur will get Canada’s next start in goal on Thursday versus Switzerland and from there it’s up to coach Mike Babcock to decide who mans the net.
Whether it’s Brodeur or Luongo, Bobby Lu is ready to play the hand he’s dealt.
“I spoke to Babs a few weeks ago and he told me we’d be splitting the first few games and he said after that we’ll see,” said Luongo. “For me, I’m just focused on doing my job and if I get the tap, I’ll be ready to go.
“I’m not here to prove anything, I’m here to help the team and the country the best way I can, for me it was special to play in front of the fans tonight and I was really happy with the way things went.”
So was the rest of the country.
In front of Luongo it was Sidney Crosby leading the charge with three points, while Dan Boyle, Jarome Iginla and Dany Heatley each had two points, the latter pair with two goals a piece.
KESLER AND TEAM USA DRAW FIRST BLOOD(Click here for the replay of USA vs. Switzerland)
Canucks forward Ryan Kesler didn’t find the scoresheet in Team USA’s opening game of the 2010 Winter Olympics, but his team found the win column and that’s all that mattered.
Kesler was all smiles as he made his way through the mixed zone after the game (more on that madness later on), saying that for this being the US’ first contest, he was impressed.
“I thought we started off with a lot of energy, we were pretty sloppy though and as the game went on we started to tighten up and we played well.
“We knew this team was going to be tight checking and that they were going to clog up the neutral zone good, we just tried to use our speed and we were effective today.”
Kesler had 12:51 of ice time on 19 shifts and played on the power play and penalty kill; he didn’t record any shots on goal as of his two attempts, one was high and wide and the other rang off the crossbar.
USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner and assist captain Dustin Brown skated alongside Kesler and although the trio combined for just one shot, Kesler was pleased with how their chemistry increased as the game progressed.
“Obviously we’ve only had one practice together so we were a little rusty to start off with, but as the game wore on we started finding each other out there and we were starting to click.”
The Americans skating away with a win over the overmatched group from Switzerland came as no surprise, but the fact that there weren’t any boo birds that flew past Kesler caught him off guard.
Kesler was expecting to be the enemy in his own barn, yet he was the overwhelming crowd favourite. US coach Ron Wilson wasn’t sure which was the fans were going to sway either, so he sent Kesler out for the opening draw.
Gee, thanks so much coach.
“He said I might get booed out there,” laughed Kesler. “I appreciate him doing that and it was pretty special to take the opening draw.”
“It was a little different,” added Kesler on simply skating at GM Place in a different uniform that he’s used to. “Obviously putting on the USA sweater is very special for me and I think the most different thing was dressing in a different dressing room. The fans were great, the crowd was into it and it was very special for me today.”
Kesler and the Americans will be in action next on Thursday against Team Norway.