Friday, September 30, 2016

Marchand pops the European dreams with game winning short handed goal

Brad Marchand celebrates a career making kind of goal
as he secures a World Cup victory for Team Canada

(photo from World Cup of hockey website)
Such was the relief at Team Canada's come from behind victory to win the World Cup on Thursday night that even fans living in British Columbia, still with memories of a Boston Bruin tandem that dashed their Stanley Cup dreams clear in their minds as a bright Pacific sky, probably stood up and cheered.

On Thursday evening, what was shaping up as a rather disastrous night for the Canadians was turned around with mere seconds to go, as Brad Marchand hustling off the Canadian bench joined into the play to convert a Jonathon Toews pass which he quickly rifled behind Jaroslav Halak to secure the victory for Team Canada.

But let's back up a bit shall we, because for 57 minutes of the game it was most certainly Team Europe's victory to claim, they out-hustled the Canadians to the puck and Halak, as he had for the entire tournament put up a wall that was almost enough to send a seismic shock through Canadian hockey.

Playing with momentum off of a laser guided missile from Zdeno Chara, the European squad did what many teams from the continent have done for decades, make a one goal game an exercise in shut down hockey, with the Canadians frustrated at any number of times through almost sixty minutes of play.

The Europeans made sure that no room would be found to launch an offensive attack, the Canadians for their part uncharacteristically making a number of sloppy plays, passes that just missed, shots that went wide and periods of lethargic play that seemed to suck the atmosphere out of the Air Canada Centre and left folks at home occasionally checking in on baseball, the NFL or pre-season hockey.

Sure we checked back in from time to time to see if things were still looking sketchy, but the full attention of the nation (much like the players it seemed at times) appeared to be elsewhere.

The Europeans no doubt were deserving of one more game of the best of three series, such was their ability to neutralize the Canadian machine, yet the as the third period moved towards the midway point though, our attention became focused again as Team Canada looking increasingly desperate to turn around the play began to pressure the European squad in ways that they hadn't through the previous fifty minutes.

First there was the equalizer as Patrice Bergeron finished off a Sidney Crosby/Brent Burns play at the seventeen minute mark to give a jump to the Canadians, putting the first doubt of the game for the Europeans at the worst possible time.

The push down the stretch didn't come without some tension, Drew Doughty took a high sticking penalty with two minutes left in the third, leaving the Canadians short handed and looking to just survive the period and take Game Two into an Overtime.

Their penalty killing proved inspiring, aided by one lucky bounce off a post and a spectacular game saving stop by Carey Price who had been providing much of the same for much of the game.

And then game the time for the Magic of Marchand, as he hopped off the bench on a change on the fly, found himself in the right spot to take a Jonathan Toews pass and with a quick shot the World Cup was Canada's.

The winning goal by Brad Marchand capped his tournament appearance, making whichever member of the Team Canada selection team that lobbied for him to be included on the roster look like an Oracle of the puck.

The wisdom of that selection having been rewarded time and time again through the tournament, the fact that the clinching goal came off of the Nova Scotian's stick was a true reward to the concept of the work ethic and always being ready to accept the call to duty.

There have been many significant moments in Canadian hockey since the legendary magic of 1972 when Paul Henderson brought relief to the huddled masses gathered around a television set watching the flickering images from Moscow.

A  goal for the ages that has been joined by a few other Heritage moments over the decades since.

And while we suspect that in the litany of historic goals for Canadian hockey, the Marchand marker won't be quite remembered in the same conversations as those of Henderson, Gretzky to Lemieux or Iginla to Crosby.

On September 29th of 2016, Brad Marchand's late game heroics resonated for Canadian hockey fans from coast to coast to coast, and even in Vancouver, where the name Marchand was once etched into the deepest corners where the nightmares of the Pacific coast hockey fan live, a glass or two of craft beer was no doubt raised as Team Canada celebrated their lucky talisman and claimed another international title.

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