Thursday, September 20, 2007

You go your way and I'll go mine...

We're not sure what musical selections might be on the iPods of Mike Keenan or Roberto Luongo, but surely there is some room in the digital universe for an old Bob Dylan classic. A hopeful song about admitting past mistakes and moving along.

If so, then the Vancouver goaltender and the Calgary coach must have been humming up a storm or then again maybe not. Keenan returned to Vancouver yesterday to a team that he once coached and left after fourteen months, lost and discouraged when his version of tough love wreaked havoc on the franchise. While the Vancouver media might have wished to reminisce about the bad old days (and they did), the juicy potential of the more recent battles between Keenan and his former goaltender probably were too good to pass up.

Luongo and Keenan should have crossed paths for the first time this season on Wednesday, though it seems either by happenstance or design, they managed not to actually speak or even nod at each other while wandering the bowels of GM Place in Vancouver.

Keenan's new project, the Calgary Flames were in Vancouver for a pre-season match with the Canucks on Wednesday night and while everyone awaits the first Iron Mike missive on the state of the Flames and their fortunes, there still is time for a little retro review for the Vancouver media.

And nothing can stir up the soup than retracing those fun filled days of Florida when Keenan and Luongo who went toe to toe over contract negotiations that ultimately led to Luongo moving on to Vancouver in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi and Alex Auld.

Grant Kerr of the Globe and Mail recounts those testy days and tests the waters to see if there is still some underlying bitterness at how it all came to pass back in June of 2006 and how things may evolve now that the two main participants in those acrimonious days are now once again in the same division and will see each other at least eight times over the next seven months.

For the first match between the two divisional rivals, Luongo started and played for thirty minutes stopping all fourteen Flames shots that he faced before giving way to Cory Schneider to finish the game who also shut out the Flames on seven shots.

Vancouver backed their goaltenders up with scoring and solid physical play matching the Flames stride for stride, hit for hit and punch for punch , putting the Flames away 4-0 and leaving Keenan with more than a few things to jot down and begin to address as only he can.

All but one of the Vancouver goals came against Calgary's back up for the night Curtis McElhinney. He relieved Miikka Kirpusoff in the second period, only to watch the Canucks find relatively easy success and score three goals on five shots. Kirpusoff had faced fifteen shots and turned away fourteen before taking his spot on the bench.

One suspects that once the regular season begins Kiprusoff will spend more time on the ice than on the bench and the results will be a little tighter on the score sheets which may help to ease some of the anxious moments for the Flames and their new coach.

Still a win is a win, a shut out, a shut out and Luongo and his team mates can mark one down in their column for the reunion tour. It was already one of the bitterest of rivalries in the NHL, but this season each and every Flames/Canucks game is going to be a treat.

But judging by the tone of the first match of the year, those iPods are going to feature songs that showcase the animosity of these two teams, perhaps the Dixie Chicks and Not ready to make nice might get a play or two before this season is over.

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