They have star power, for sure. There are the Sedin twins and there are Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison, to name a few.
And yet the Canucks find themselves ahead of the Dallas Stars 3-1 in their opening playoff series largely because of some unlikely sources.
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Trevor Linden, for instance. He used to be a star with the Canucks, of course. A long time ago. In the twilight of his career, though, he’s a role player. And the role he played last night loomed large because it was Linden who scored the game winner by jamming in a rebound late in the third period.
And don’t forget Willie Mitchell.
He’s an unheralded defenceman who preserved victory by sweeping a trickling puck off the goal line with 2:33 remaining in the game.
Mitchell has the longest stick on the Vancouver team. Now we know why.
Not that the spectators in Dallas believed Mitchell had prevented the goal. As the officials reviewed the play, the fans cheered, convinced the puck passed the goal line.
“I would have gone nuts if they called that a goal,” Mitchell said afterward. “I knew it didn’t cross.”
Mitchell turned in a terrific game against his ex-teammates last night.
Offensively, he recorded an assist on Linden’s goal. Defensively, he made certain none of the Stars came close to Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. He was all over any Dallas player in Luongo’s general vicinity.
Small wonder, too. Like every member of the Canucks, Mitchell is keenly aware of Luongo’s value.
So far in the playoffs, Luongo is Ken Dryden and/or Patrick Roy reincarnated. He is in one of those zones standout goalies sometimes get into during the post-season, and there’s no reason to believe the Canucks can’t ride him to the Stanley Cup championship series.
Especially when chaps such as Mitchell and Linden are contributing the way they did last night. Good teams get good efforts from all their players. Good teams can prevent their opponents from scoring with two-man advantages. The
Stars had such an advantage for nearly two minutes in the first period and got zilch.
The Canucks are a good team. The Stars aren’t.
Despite another impressive performance from goaltender Marty Turco, who turned away 26 shots, the Stars have lost six playoff games in a row on their home ice.
If they lose in Vancouver tomorrow night, they’ll be knocked out of the opening round in five games for the third consecutive post-season.
And Dave Tippett and Doug Armstrong are in serious jeopardy of losing their jobs as the Stars’ coach and general manager, respectively.