Vancouver Canucks fans have to be pretty happy as the stretch drive to the playoffs begins, given how their Olympic representatives fared in the two-week tournament.
On the gold medal-winning Canadian team, Roberto Luongo had the reins passed down to him. Much like a 29-year-old Martin Brodeur had the torch passed to him in 2002 after Curtis Joseph faltered against Sweden, 30-year-old Luongo took the opportunity afforded him after a Brodeur loss against the USA and carried the torch high. In five games, Bobby Lou had five wins, a shutout, a .927 SP and 1.76 GAA. His positioning was impeccable and even though he was pointed out as fighting the puck sometimes, Luongo made the saves he had to make to give his team the wins and now no one can say he isn’t a proven winner.
On Team USA, Ryan Kesler only scored two goals, but he was a serious two-way force and a leader on the young squad. Kesler averaged 17:31 of ice time in the Games, tied for second among USA forwards with Patrick Kane and four seconds off Jamie Langenbrunner’s pace.
The defending Olympic champions from Sweden were disappointing in a quarterfinal loss to Slovakia and the Sedin twins, used to being offensive catalysts in Vancouver, were relegated to the second unit, seeing their ice time cut drastically from their NHL levels. That may have contributed to their lower than normal production, but the two still combined for five points and a plus-five rating in four games.
But perhaps the most impressive and comforting performance from a Canuck fan’s standpoint was the play of Pavol Demitra. Injured for all but 11 games in the NHL this season, the 35-year-old had only managed four points heading into the Olympics. However, three of them came in his last two games before the break and then once the tournament began, Demitra took off.
Not only was the entire Slovakian team surprising in their fourth-place showing, but Demitra’s 10 points in seven games led the tournament. He had one game-winning goal, a power play goal, a shorthanded goal and led all Slovak forwards in ice time with 20:07 per game; a raise of about five minutes from his NHL time.
Can these guys continue their performances that ranged from consistent to explosive? Only the last 21 games on the schedule can answer that, but things are setting up pretty nicely for the third-ranked team in the West.
This article also appeared in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
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