Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cowan, Canucks win it on a weird one

2007 Western Conference Semi-final - Game 2
Canucks 2, Ducks 1 (2OT)
Series tied 1-1

Originally uploaded by Timmer82.
Well, the Vancouver Canucks have all of three goals in this series, and journeyman Jeff Cowan has two of them — including the winner eight minutes into the second overtime tonight.

It was a bizarre way to close out a fairly sleepy game, as a little Sedin-like game of cycle the puck between Trevor Linden and Cowan ended in an impossible-angle shot that somehow squeezed between J-S Giguere's right skate and the post.

Cowan's a bizarre case study of a prototypical castoff: Never drafted, undersized out of junior and not much of a fighter, the kid from Scarborough reinvented himself as a plugger and puncher in his third pro season with the Saint John Flames (at age 22, no less) and managed to catch on with the big-league Flames soon after.

Dealt to the then expansion-awful Thrashers in December, 2001, Cowan was one of coach Curt Fraser's bangers and picked up 233 PIMs in 162 games, putting him in near-goon territory.

Something funny happened post-Fraser, however, as the now-improving club put Cowan in a bit more of an offensive role in 2003-04, and he responded with nine goals and 24 points in 58 games, nearly outpointing his previous five NHL seasons combined.

That showing won him a trade to the Los Angeles Kings, where he'd been wallowing on line four, playing about eight minutes a night up until the Canucks claimed him on waivers the day before New Year's Eve, 2006.

GM Dave Nonis was essentially looking for a warm body, one who came with a bit of an arsenal — and not one that involved a stick and puck. And 23 games into life in Vancouver, Cowan barely showed a pulse, producing a statline that included zero goals, zero assists, -3, 35 PIM and an average of five minutes ice time a night.

Game No. 24, however, things changed. Cowan potted a short-handed goal — his first tally of the year and first in 53 games (it's hard to score from the bench or the box) — and squared off against Phoenix tough guy Josh Gratton. Over the next three games, Cowan would net five more goals on a team oh-so-desperate for scoring, and when one lusty fan tossed a brassiere on the ice during this string, the legend-starved Vancouver fans spun up a few nicknames for the local hero.

And Cowan the Brabarian was born.

Cowan's been rather quiet since that one, short-lived outburst during the season, but now he's 2-for-2 in this series against the Ducks, the team's top scoring threat given that the Sedin twins haven't been seen since Chris Pronger stepped on the ice to start Round 2.

And the Canucks keep winning games they have no business being in, getting scoring from players they never intended to be putting pucks in the net.

If he isn't already, Nonis should be playing the lottery.

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At 2:45 a.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you actually watch that game? Canucks controlled the majority of the play until the first ot where I thought they were outplayed abit. As for their offense, I thought the sedin line was generating lots of chances.

Overall I would say that game was pretty impressive for a canuck team missing 2 of their top 4 dmen, with Mitchell playing injured and Sopel being their leader in ice time.

At 5:07 a.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes james, your off the cuff canucks bashing is getting rather tiresome.

At 9:25 a.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger Mike said...

I won't bother arguing the excitement factor since it's apparent you just don't like the way this team plays, but to say they had no business winning the game is off base. They dominated that first period (at one point outshooting the Ducks 10-2). They did that again in the third. Moreover, they raised their physical play, and at several times, were flat out out-hustling the Ducks in their zone. All without their best forecheckers (Cooke and Kesler) and two of their top D-men (Bieska and Salo)?

If by some magical fluke they won game one somehow, you'd have an argument. But not with last night. They had every right to win that game as much as the Ducks did.

At 10:28 a.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Yeah, the Canucks definitely used hustle to make up for their shortcomings last night but James in right to say that the overwhelming pattern is that the Canucks are winning games that they don't deserve to win.

And I'd argue about the Canucks dominating the majority of play until the first OT. They may have been dumping the puck in a lot and chasing it but I don't recall too many quality scoring chances being created. Not to mention the penalty trouble that they were in. When the Ducks go 0-7 with the amount of chances that they created and the number of empty nets that Selanne missed on his own then there is certainly an element of luck in the win.

At 10:51 a.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger Mike said...

PPP - Overwhelming pattern? I wouldn't go that far, but if you want to say there's a trend in their play during games where they simply don't show up so they resort to falling back on defense and letting Luongo take care of the rest, then absolutely. Last night though? No way. I'd say the reason most Canuck fans are happy today, the win aside, is the stark contrast in what we've seen so much of and last night.

And I didn't mean to argue they dominated the game overall...not at all. The first period they did I think. The 3rd period was split and the OT was more the Ducks; Vancouver looked badly fatigued by the start of the second one.

I just don't think it's fair to say, in game two alone, they were outmatched to the point they had no right winning it. Just my two cents...and obviously I'm a bit biased ;)

At 11:27 a.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Canucks fans are ridiculous.

The reason they had no business being in the game was they were missing two of their best defencemen, and Brent Sopel played 40 minutes in a game against one of the best teams in the league. Then a plugger like Jeff Cowan scores the winner on a bizarre goal that, percentage wise, has zero chance of entering the net.

If you think that's a consistent formula for beating the Ducks, good on you, but you're more delusional than I thought.

I honestly don't have any reason to bash Vancouver; I'd actually rather prefer they win — but I'm prepared to be honest about what I see on the ice. This team is in trouble unless some warm bodies can come back.

They played well, but there's a reason it took until double overtime to settle things.

At 12:12 p.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or maybe the Ducks are in trouble when they can't win a game on home ice with Brent Sopel being the leader in ice time for the Canucks.

At 12:16 p.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger sager said...

If Selanne had finished on that backhand move in the third, Vancouver doesn't get to go to overtime. More or less Like James said, their margin for error is razor-thin.

At 12:52 p.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger Mike said...

Maybe I read Mirtle's take too quickly then. My apologies. I agree entirely that there's a reason their games go to OT so often and that their margin for error is thin. Very thin in some cases. But they did play a far different game then they usually do last night and it was good to see it pay off for them...or get the bounces they needed. Either or.

At 1:22 p.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Orange Orangutan said...

At some point you have to give the Canucks some credit for playing a hard fought game and hanging in there with the limited tools they have. They worked hard, created many opportunities, and I wouldn't say they were outplayed by any means. Anaheim did have several more dangerous scoring chances overall, but given their speed, talent level, and the thrashed Canuck's defensive corps, I would expect that to be the case in most games throughout this series.

Does that translate into a series win? Most probably not, but no one really expected that anyways. And yes, there comes a point when the key players have to step up. Naslund and the Sedins must come through with more than offensive pressure - they have to start tallying goals if they are to have any hope.

But lets give the Canucks at least a little bit of credit. Under the current circumstances, they played probably as well as they could have, and I think they deserved the win. Luck is usually always a factor in the Stanley Cup Playoffs - it's about time the Canucks actually had some go their way. The previous 13 years have been ... less than kind in Canuck-ville.

As a footnote, I'd take the lower scale talent and resilience of the current team over any of the talented, walking dead teams from the Crawford era.

At 2:06 p.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Robert said...

As a similarly-minded Canucks fan, you took the words right out of my mouth Orange Orangutan

At 2:22 p.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listen up, if it was the Toronto Maple Leafs doing in the playoffs what the Canucks are doing, we would be hearing the eastern media talking about what a great gritty team Toronto was, and the heroic efforts of unsung players stepping up when needed to get a victory.

We would also be hearing that these were great games to watch, with terriffic defence and unbelievable goal tending, and that the long overtime games were great titanic struggles between two teams and goaltenders unwilling to give the other team an inch.

At 3:14 p.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Daniel said...

I was at this game last night and I was impressed by the Canucks and disappointed with the Ducks. On sheer effort, I say that the Canucks deserved to win this game. Anaheim looked like they thought Vancouver was going to roll over and use injuries as an excuse. They took a night off and have, at this point, lost home ice advantage.

I didn't see the goal, I had this Canucks fan in front of me standing up. But I kind of saw where the play came from and thought it was lucky. It doesn't matter, the Canucks deserved it just by playing just as hard if not harder then the Ducks. But, this will be their undoing, I think they pissed Anaheim off.

At 5:32 p.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger sager said...

+1 to Orange Orangutan just for his name.

At 5:44 p.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Why the inferiority complex with regard to the Leafs? The Canucks are in the playoffs. If someone doesn't like the way your team plays it doesn't matter because you're a fan and the win is all that matters. To neutrals, the look of the game matters a lot more.

I don't read Vancouver papers but I would imagine that they are using those very descriptions of the Canucks' play. Why should Toronto-based writers view the games through a home-team prism?

And Mike, in the playoffs so far I think you could fairly say that the Canucks were not the best team in all 5 wins.

At 7:08 p.m., April 28, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

We would also be hearing that these were great games to watch, with terriffic defence and unbelievable goal tending, and that the long overtime games were great titanic struggles between two teams and goaltenders unwilling to give the other team an inch.

I think I'd agree with that. Maybe it's true the Canucks are getting unfairly dumped on for playing 'boring' hockey, but what point is there in using that style if you're going to bow out meekly in Round 2?

Of course, if they can beat the Ducks, I'll be eating my words.

At 7:40 p.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Actually the home town press is basically anti-Canucks, and always has been. Probably because most of the teams the club has assembled have lacked heart and grit and always found ways to lose. Not a single Canucks reporter that I have read was willing to give the Canucks a chance at winning this series. Not a single homer among the press. Can you believe it? Anyway, after game 1, Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun had written a blasting obituary for this Canucks team. Said it was already finished if I recall correctly. I can't wait for that clown to eat his words. Canucks in 6. Here we go!

At 7:42 p.m., April 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh and you too james :)

At 1:49 a.m., April 29, 2007, Blogger Jeremy said...

I've been reading here regularly this year, and overall I think James' coverage of the Canucks has been interesting and fair...this is a Kamloops kid, after all!

Although the Canuck bandwagon is plenty full of "faithful believers" across BC right now, I think most fans who have been paying attention have felt like I have this season: low expectations that have been exceeded repeatedly. The style they play is very much like the style the Wild used a few years ago to go deep in the playoffs, and they never looked like they deserved to win either. It's weird to cheer for a team that's winning when you don't think they really deserve to...but it's still fun to see them win.

All of that said, I thought they did deserve to win last night -- they battled a lot harder than they did in most of the Dallas series, and the quality of the game overall seemed much better to me overall.


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