Matt Ustaski, pinball wizard
Matt Ustaski of the Wisconsin Badgers scored what is likely the strangest goal of his collegiate career on Friday, potting one from 190 feet. Sure, teams score empty netters all the time, but the Matt O’Connor was still on the ice for the Boston Terriers at the time. The BU keeper skated out to start a counter-attack as the Badgers made a defensive change, but his pass careened off of defenseman Brien Diffley and into his own net.
It was very nearly UW’s biggest win of the year — they’ve only won twice in fourteen games — as Ustaski’s goal gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead with less than three minutes to play against the #2 ranked Terriers. It wasn’t to be, however. BU would score twice with O’Connor on the bench, including the tying goal with 2.2 seconds left, and would eventually win via the dreaded shootout.
If you’re a regular visitor to Pucked in the Head, you know I’ve been pumping Roberto Luongo’s tires since day one. The very day the Canucks acquired him from the Florida Panthers, the first words out of my mouth were, “Oh my god. We’re going to win a Cup.”
Nearly a decade later, Bobby Lu owns nearly every franchise record a Canucks goaltender can own. He’s second to only Martin Brodeur among active goalies for most career wins (367), shutouts (65) and shots against (>23K), and third in games played (789). Sadly, that Stanley Cup didn’t quite happen, but he did win a gold medal on Rogers Arena ice. That counts, right? RIGHT?!?!
Mike Gillis had me in his corner through the start of his tenure. I thought he was a masterful tinkerer, bringing in just the right bits and pieces to win consecutive Presidents Trophies, Art Ross Trophies and outstanding hockey. It was a stellar ride, even if the very pinnacle of achievement also included consecutive bed-poopings with that Cup just a win away. But MG has screwed up one time too many for my liking.
Hear the gnashing of teeth. See the flailing of arms. Feel the tension and taste the tears, because playoff hockey is here.
Mere days into the NHL’s first round, and we’ve already seen blowouts — the Sidless Penguins handed John Tavares every ass on the New York Islander roster in game one. We’ve been treated to overtime gaffes — I’m looking at you, Jonathan Quick, you bizarre, talented bastard, you. Controversy: Eric Gryba got an unwarranted two-game suspension after Lars Eller’s nose hit the ice. Sadly, Brendan Shanahan’s ruling — see the video below — was only half as atrocious as the Ottawa Sun’s front page coverage of the incident. (Even Sun sports journalist Bruce Garrioch was embarrassed, going to lengths to explain that editors, not writers, choose the pictures and headlines.) And out west, Roberto Luongo played his face off in a surprise start for the listless Vancouver Canucks. No one seems to know what ails the goaltender regent, Corey Schneider, but who mans the crease will only be a talking point if Vancouver manages more than a goal a game against the Sharks.
Perhaps the most impressive story so far this playoff actually stretches beyond the boundaries of the NHL. On the very day that the Toronto Maple Leafs played their first playoff game in nearly a decade, the Leafs, Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto FC were collectively outscored 20-2 by the Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox and Montreal Impact respectively. It seems nothing can go right in Hogtown these days — Rob Ford is still the mayor, for goodness’ sake.
Okay, okay: politics notwithstanding, in a city that proclaims itself the Centre of the Universe, they sure as shootin’ aren’t doing much to impress in the world of sports. Until the Argonauts take the field to defend their Grey Cup title later this summer, the only thing T-dot has to cheer for is the Marlies. The Baby Leafs swept the Rochester Americans in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs, and await the winners of the other three Western Conference quarterfinals before second round reseeding. Go (baby) Leafs go, I suppose.
Here’s ol’ Shanny’s ruling, in which he mysteriously states that Gryba made Eller’s head the principal point of contact. (Compare with PK Subban’s hit on Chris Neil earlier in the game — in which red-jerseyed shoulder indeed smucks upon white-helmeted head — as giffed by @Eyeonhockey.)
It’s been a tough few weeks for Canucks fans. Injuries to stud Ryan Kesler and stalwart Kevin Bieksa, coupled with lacklustre play from the rest of the boys, have helped the Canucks plummet from the league stratosphere they’ve enjoyed for a couple of seasons now. They’ve won just three games in their last 12, and more often than not are fighting to tie games up in the last few minutes just to gain a measly Bettman point.
It’s OKy, though, because the next game is an easy matchup against Columbus…. Wait they’ve won five straight, including one against Vancouver? A world where the Canucks arenʼt leading the Northwest Division and the Blue Jackets beat Detroit twice in three tries is a world I donʼt want to live in.
Well, it is safe to say that it won’t be an easy week for the struggling Canucks. After Nationwide Arena tonight, the boys head home to Rogers Arena to host Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators, followed by the always-dangerous and eternally deep Red Wings.
Which Canucks team will show up? Luckily, you don’t have to guess which half of the Vancouver Jeckyll-and-Hyde Show will strap on skates for these three games. We at Pucked in the Head have enlisted EA Sports to prognosticate for us. I’ll attempt to make the roster as authentic as possible (i.e Kesler hurt, Ebbett back, Schroeder sent to minors, Luongo starting against Columbus). Also included are my predictions for this week’s lines (Burrows centering the 2nd, Kassian with the Twins, etc.)
Coming into the 2013 season, Cory Schneider looked forward to his first action as an NHL starter. Halfway through his first game as the #1 guy in Vancouver — a game that was essentially a pre-season game, just with points that count in the standings — he had let in five goals on 14 shots, and the guy wearing #1 on his back was taking over the crease.
Immediately, people all over Twitter, on radio call-in shows and even in the booth on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada started talking about goaltending controversy in Vancouver. What they didn’t talk about was the invisibility of Alex Burrows, the ineffectiveness of the second and fourth lines, or the shakiness of the “deepest defensive corps in the NHL”.
But yeah, goalie controversy, right? We thought we’d look at each goal one at a time to determine just who the goat and/or goats were. Here it is, right after the jump.
Saturday morning’s skate was full of drama and speculation. As per Cam Charron (@camcharron on the mighty Twitter), “We are at Defcon-Luongo. He is NOT on the ice at UBC.” Spotting a meme in the making, I quickly jumped on the interwebs — well, okay, on the Photoshop — and confirmed that Bobby Lu has indeed spawned a red alert: