DAY 13: THE END IS NEAR
By Derek Jory, Canucks.com
Well, here we are. It’s 8:23 a.m. as I begin today’s entry. I’m already set up in the press box at Canada Hockey Place. No room for error so I came early, real early, and it’s a good thing. Security is womb tight, everything is searched on everyone.
It’s surreal being here, perhaps the greatest possible ending to the greatest possible two weeks of my life.
Let’s get one thing straight: I’d be stoked if it was Latvia vs. Belarus for gold. You can imagine my state that it's not.
It’s Canada versus the United States, Roberto Luongo versus Ryan Kesler, Us versus Them.
It should come as no surprise then that I discovered a few grey hairs this morning while beautifying myself. While excited that I am on the long road to the salt and pepper George Clooney look, it worries me that by the end of today’s finale, I might look like Bob Barker.
I hope that’s not the case, and although I’ve maintained my professionalism throughout the tournament in not picking sides, I hope Canada pulls this one out.
The young Americans are a talented group, no one is debating that, but in a one-game showdown, much like the Super Bowl, it comes down to intangibles.
Canada certainly has the edge there as they’ll hit the ice with glowing hearts, backed by a nation that has magically come together like never before.
Canada wins 4-2.
GO CANADA GO!
BEHIND THE SCENES OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY
(Click here for a replay of Canada vs. USA)
It’s almost as if it was scripted.
Sidney Crosby, Canada’s golden boy, scoring the golden goal to win Canada gold. It’s like it was meant to be.
Roberto Luongo being in net for it, that part came as a re-write.
The Canucks backstop played a vital role in Canada’s 3-2 overtime win over the United States Sunday in the most anticipated Olympics final in Games history.
Luongo stopped 34 of 36 shots, which includes four key saves in extra time, allowing Crosby to do what Crosby does best. Score.
The Kid’s goal 7:40 into overtime sent teammates pilling on top of each other in a celebration that will continue for years. And years. And years.
"It’s unreal,” said a joyous Luongo, gold medal around his neck. “You work hard your whole life for something like this and it’s nice to get rewarded. This medal’s not only for myself, but for Canada and obviously the people in Vancouver and the fans that have supported me since I first got here.”
That support never weaned, even when Luongo and the Canadians gave up a goal to the Americans with 24.4 seconds to play in the third period to force overtime.
The Zach Parise goal, a rebound off a Jamie Langenbrunner shot, gave the Americans new life. Having come into this game without ever trailing in the tournament, the US did a lot of it up until finally evening the playing field with less than a minute to play.
”That was disappointing obviously, we were so close to getting it there and just a bang bang play and I made the made the first save and the puck ended up on his stick and he banged it home,” said Luongo.
”Once we got back in the locker room I think it was important to stay focused not only for myself, but I think my teammates and we did that and came out and played a great overtime.”
Crosby put the exclamation point on overtime with a goal that will go down as one of the biggest in Canada’s history.
The photo of Crosby yelling with his fists clenched after scoring the goal as he awaits his teammates is iconic - already. It’ll be on a stamp tomorrow and water bottles Tuesday. By Wednesday it’ll be a poster at Wal-Mart and once next weekend rolls around, Crosby’s bring it on warrior picture will be on your wall. Trust me.
”It’s just fitting that Sid would get it, I wouldn’t think of somebody body that can put that one in for us,” smiled Luongo, adding that he isn’t heading to Disney Land to celebrate the win.
”I’m going to go enjoy a bit of it in the locker room with my buddies here that we’re going to have a bond with the rest of our lives and afterwards I’m going to spend some nice family time with all the people that came all the way out to Vancouver to support me.”
Crosby, a Stanley Cup winner and gold medalist at age 22, won’t be the only player whose legacy increases because of the win, Luongo finally proved he can win the big game.
Besides USA’s late goal, the only blemish to Luongo’s night was giving up a second period goal to Canucks teammate Ryan Kesler.
Kesler then proceeded to chirp Luongo in the Canadian zone during a stoppage in play.
It was frienemies at its best.
"I don’t know, I didn’t hear him,” said Luongo, about Kesler’s trash talk. “It was so loud I didn’t hear.”
Luckily he heard what mattered most: LUUUUUU being cheered by everyone in the building as he received his gold medal.
”The fact that we won makes it so much more fun,” he said, alluding to his Olympic experience.
”I had a blast the whole week, I came in here with the right mindset and I enjoyed every minute of it. To win it in overtime like that is an unreal feeling.”
We’re with you there, Bobby Lu.
Tuesday night in Columbus the Vancouver Canucks will play the first of six games in nine days to end a road trip that, believe it or not, is still going on.
Despite what played out at Canada Hockey Place in Canada beating the United States 3-2 in overtime, Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler will be on the same side of the fence again.
But it won’t be easy.
”He’s a teammate, but this one stings, it’s going to take a couple of weeks,” said a dejected Kesler. “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to take a couple of weeks.”
It was going to be difficult for one of them. Obviously Kesler is disappointed it had to be him.
Like Pavol Demitra a night earlier, Kesler gave everything he had in a losing cause. He opened the scoring for the Americans and was part of a trio of Dustin Brown and Patrick Kane that the Canadians didn’t have any answer for.
Every time they wheeled into the zone, fans held their breath fearing the worst. Rightfully so.
A little support from others and Kesler might have been sporting gold instead of Luongo.
”We came here for gold,” said Kes, “obviously silver is a great accomplishment but we thought we were good enough to win it all.
”We proved that it’s not just Canada’s game, we took them to overtime, we beat them once already and it was anybody’s game in overtime. You’ve got to give them respect and they played a good game and I thought we played pretty well too.”
No Canadian will deny that they were leery of the American’s attack going into the extra session. The US had just scored and that had Canada on its heels.
In overtime the Americans had their chance to strike, said Kesler.
”We dominated in overtime, I thought we played really well. They got a lucky break and they buried it.
”I think they came out flat-footed and we just couldn’t capitalize. We had a couple good opportunities and we couldn’t capitalize on them.”
”I’m born American and I’m proud of my country. To come up short definitely hurts. We deserved better.”
ALL-STAR TEAM & MVP
I was just handed a piece of paper that makes me nervous.
It’s a ballot for selecting the all-star team and most valuable player. I’m as shocked as you are that they’re leaving this in the hands of the media, most of us aren’t sitting right now, we’re floating.
We have until the end of the second period to make our picks. Like the ballot says, “the selections you are about to make will have an impact on how this championship will be recorded in the history books of hockey.
No pressure at all.
The all-star team consists of a goaltender, two defencenmen and three forwards. There are a lot of possible options at each position, but here’s my take.
It’s a two horse race between Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller. While Miller is thus far undefeated leading the tournament in save percentage and goals against average, his defence is stellar. The same can not be said for Hiller.
Ever heard of Severin Blindenbacher? What about Luca Sbisa? Unless you’re their parents, I’m assuming no. Those were two of the defenceman “helping” Hiller. He faced the third most shots against and still managed the sixth best goals against average and seventh best save percentage.
I’m giving the edge to Hiller right now, but if Miller shutouts Canada through two periods, I’ll reconsider.
Brian Rafalski has not only been shutdown in his own end, he leads the Americans in scoring with four goals and four assists in five games. He’s a lock.
The last available spot could go to either Ryan Suter, Shea Weber or maybe Drew Doughty?
Suter is second in plus/minus at plus-8, Weber isn’t far back at plus-6 and he’s tied for sixth in scoring with six points, Doughty has arguably been Canada’s best blueliner.
The second slot will be filled with whoever catches my eye after 40 minutes.
For playing inspired hockey like we haven’t seen for 10 years, Pavol Demitra gets the first nod.
The Slovak attack was paced by Demitra’s three goals and seven assists; he’s tops in points and did everything he could to help Slovakia in a bronze medal loss.
Slots two and three could go to a host of players, including Tore Vikingstad of Norway, the second leading goal scorer, Dany Heatley, Canada’s best forward with seven points, Jonathan Toews, the plus/minus leader at plus-9, or Jarome Iginla, who has five goals, more than anyone else.
In the spirit of the underdog and because I don’t want Canada and the United States to dominate my ballot, Vikingstad will likely get a vote.
The third spot is up for grabs. Wow me and it’s yours.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The most valuable player will be whoever the game changer is between Canada and the USA.
That might not come until the third period, which is a shame, so I’m going with the flow on this pick.