Tuesday, March 18, 2014


On the Road, Again!

Last Sunday, Shawn Matthias played his first game in Florida as a Vancouver Canuck. It was not his first game in Sunrise, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, as he played 312 games for the Florida Panthers. Needless to say, it was different for the former Belleville Bull.

“It was very emotional for me,” he told me after the game. He entered the arena from a different entrance, dressed for the game in the visitors’ dressing room. “But it was fun to play here. I have always enjoyed playing in front of the crowds here.” He took some time after the game to visit with a couple of his former teammates.

The Canucks led 2-1 after the second period; however, the Panthers clawed their way back into the game and Jimmy Hayes got his second goal of the game with 1:35 remaining in the third period. The big guy from Beantown was simply doing his job on the power play, filling the space in front of the net, distracting Canucks goalie Eddie Lack. Brian Campbell’s point shot was stopped by Lack, but Hayes managed to fire the rebound into the Vancouver net.

As is so often the case this year, nothing was settled in overtime. The teams selected their players for the shootout. The Canucks: Zac Dalpe, Nicklas Jensen, and Christopher Higgins. The Panthers: Nick Bjugstad, Brad Boyes, and Brandon Pirri. My point here is that you will not find those names in the scoring leaders for the NHL. The Panthers and the Canucks are looking to the future, to put it politely. At any rate, Jensen beat Luongo with a fine deke put win the game for the Canucks.

Hayes was selected as the game’s first star, with two goals. He was traded to the Panthers after his Stanley Cup season last year with the Hawks. Once he had finished his interviews with the media types, I quietly approached him, and told him that Doug and Darlene Shaw asked me to say hello. “Do you know them?” he asked. I explained to him that we are all “County” folk. I also told him that the three Shaw boys played football in the minor league in Belleville, with Doug helping to coach. “You mean those three knucleheads were on the same team?” Hayes is a great friend of Andrew Shaw, who spends a little time stirring things up for the Blackhawks.

Matthias was traded to the Canucks with goaltender Jacob Markstrom for Luongo and Steven Anthony, at this year’s trading deadline. He made no bones about the fact that he enjoyed the win. “I am really pumped about this win,” he told me as he finished packing for the road.

Enigmatic coach John Tortorella was pleased with the win. “That’s the way it’s been,” he said, after the game. “We’ve been on the other side of these things. Good for Eddie lack, and Jensen. It’s not Picasso, that’s for sure. But it’s nice to grind away, and scratch and claw and get the two points.”

The Canucks are dangerously close to missing the playoffs this year. They are 4-12-1 in their past 17 games, and dearly miss the other Sedin. Henrik, the captain, spoke to me after the game. “It was a bit strange to see Roberto at the other end in the warmup. This is a tough time for us right now, but it is great to see the young guys coming up and playing well. If we can keep the mistakes at a minimum, we will succeed.”

On Monday night, the Canucks lost 4-3 in Tampa Bay. There is little time left for failure, for the team, for the coach.

James Hurst  
March 19, 2014  

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