What a break for the Vatican; and just hear those sighs of relief over at Goldman Sachs. For most of the week the heat has been off those miscreants. The bad boys being called on the carpet were the Vancouver Canucks.
Those other scandals are certainly worthy. And if things keep turning around here, we can get back to them very soon. But lately the real question has been: What in the name of Jiri Bubla is going on with our goddamn hockey team?
Tonight the Canucks return to the Garage with their opening round series against LA tied 2-2. But just breaking even required a wild third period to pull out a 6-4 victory Wednesday night at the Staples Center in beautiful greater Los Angeles. As fans prepare for Game Five, the last minute rush is not so much for beer and chips as fresh underwear.
Granted, the Canucks fought back Wednesday. The Sedins suddenly became superstars again in the third, and Roberto Luongo closed the door on a straight breakaway. So hands up, who feels confident right now? For most of the game this allegedly veteran team had a near-terminal case of the yips. Having promised the world they would cut out the dumb infractions and stop issuing free goals with every crime, they proceeded to take a too-many-men penalty and let in two more power play goals in a row. The Canucks looked shakier than Rahim Jaffer at a police roadblock.
As our hockey heroes played themselves into a hole, it seemed everybody had a theory. Most focused on the devious conspiracies of the NHL Star Chamber: Daniel Sedin's disallowed goal in Game Three, and the cheesy overtime penalty in Game Two. The kings of the league are in league with the Kings, it was said.
Of course, the conspiracy gang then had to explain why the Canucks were in on it. Somebody in L.A. promised to turn the Sedins into the next Olson Twins; Lindsay Lohan was sneaking into the team hotel every night; a producer offered Alex Burrows a three-picture deal if he agreed to stay out of the corners and get his beauty sleep; Roberto Luongo plays online poker more than anyone realizes. Luongo's $64 million is being paid out over 12 years, remember. Bobby Lu might need some fast cash right now.
Even former Canuck Russ Courtnall was on TV this week saying that Luongo does not look like his old self. If you want to see the old Luongo, watch the Colorado Avalanche. Craig Anderson is Luongo these days (at least until last night, when he turned into Luongo 2.0 and got pulled).
"It's OK," Luongo told reporters after getting yanked in Game Three. "It's all part of the process."
Sure, Lu, but that's the wrong process. You want the winning process.
It is no secret that our golden goalie has been having a very mediocre season. But just try to say so and you get Olympic gold waved in your face. Luongo may be patenting a whole new PR strategy -- call it "goldwashing." We're grateful and all, but the Canucks didn't pay him Oprah money to win at the Olympics. (Besides, can we just come out and say it? His Olympic performance was not much better than adequate. Canada did not win that tournament with goaltending.)
We're so sorry, Andrew Alberts
Bobby Lu may well return to form. It happens. But right now that monster contract, like so many other monster contracts, is beginning to feel like a very dead weight. It can be a depressingly short journey from happy wedding vows to crushing alimony. Pay a superstar and you not only tie up salary cap money, you also turn a potentially valuable asset into an untradeable millstone. Ask the Toronto Blue Jays. Last season they gave failed franchise player Alex Rios to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for a box of doughnut holes, just to escape the contract.
Perhaps it would help Luongo's goals-against average if the Canucks were to set up highway pylons in front of the net. If you like that idea, great news -- Andrew Alberts is back in the lineup. So far this series the lead-footed defenceman has been a joke, the kind that takes forever to get to the punchline. Bringing him out of the doghouse to start Game Five might be expected to cause a fan mutiny. Alas, Aaron Rome and Nolan Baumgartner are both injured, Willie Mitchell is still hors de combat, Red Kelly is unavailable, and your friend's niece who plays intermediate ringette has to go to bed early. So Alberts it is. May God help us all. The positives for Canucks fans? Well, it is just possible that what we saw late Wednesday was the real Canucks team, waking up at last. Those loveable twins had a very twin-like third period. Popular if clumsy D-man Shane O'Brien showed so much passion his own coach had to hogtie him, which is not a bad thing at all.
Game Five awaits, and we can only hope the Canucks will put their scandalous play behind them. In fact, they ought to arrange an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Now there's a guy who knows how to get defensive.
Think the Canucks are destined for another round in the playoffs... or further? Share the love (or dread) in a comment below.