[NetBehaviour] brodeur's last bat and the glove from above

Jim Andrews jim at vispo.com
Sun Feb 28 01:33:21 CET 2010

it was a game for the pucky ages: canada vs slovakia for a berth in the 
olympic gold medal game at the vancouver winter olympics of 2010 against the 
usa. for the ages? ya sure. ah but the olympics are storied over ages.

the canadians dominated the first two periods, winning the first period 2-0 
and the second period 1-0 with ryan getzlaf's goal, the 3-0 goal, which 
would prove to be the winner. the slovakians were to play a third period 
like few others we have seen in hockey before, with such skill and 
determination that the outcome of the game was not decided until the final 
horn blared and the vancouver audience went bonkers, absolutely bonkers with 
delight over the thrilling 3-2 game and its momentous outcome for the 
beleagured canuck squad recovered from their earlier loss to the usa and 
problems against much lower-rated clubs.

we learned that marian gaborick, the foxy slovak winger who plays for the
new york rangers, makes plays behind his own back that are so clever and
deceptive even he himself is caught by surprise.

we saw ryan getzlaf, the strongly emerging canadian star, execute the best
backhand shot i have ever seen in my life from the slot into the top left
corner of the slovakian net--a net manned like a human spider by jaroslav
halak, the montreal canadiens's goalie. halak pounced like a hairy,
heavily-padded spider around the net. only the truly bona fide unstoppable
shots made it past halak.

we saw marian hossa, another of the wily slovak wingers, cause two canadians
to crash into one another while hossa dipsy doodled past the keystone
canadian defenders. but hossa did not score. while the two crumpled
canadians dusted themselves off and got up quickly, other canadian defenders
mobilized to deal with hossa's magic, and he didn't even get a shot on net,
that time.

the first two canadian goals, in the first period, were both deflections of
screen shots from well inside the blue line. halak stood no chance
whatsoever. halak kept the slovakians in the game with brilliant save after
brilliant save, while roberto luongo, the canadian netminder, was effective
but not challenged to display the arachnoid quicksilver that the slovakian
halak dazzled us with time after time.

the third period. o the third period and the glove from above. the story of
the glove from above.

but, first, recall brodeur's last bat. in the qualification round, three
games earlier, martin brodeur, the canadian national team's netminder since
his brilliant 2002 gold medal performance in salt lake city, perhaps the
most celebrated goaltender of all time, faltered in the canadian goal during
a 5-3 loss to the usa. early in the game, the usamericans blazed past the
center line and dumped the puck in, forcing brodeur to play it with his
stick well out of his crease. brodeur batted the moving puck cricket-style,
attempting to clear the zone. instead, the puck went directly to a
usamerican forward who promptly shot it in the gaping canadian net. this
fate was also to befall mikka kiprusof, the finnish goalkeeper, in the
finnish-usa game, a startling reenactment of what appears to be a
semi-planned play on the part of the usamericans: charge into the zone in
the first minutes of the game, shoot the puck in in such a way as to force
the goalie to come out and play the puck with the stick while the forwards
close in with terrifying deadly speed.  the usamericans have unmanned two of
the best goalies in the game this way by forcing them to make big mistakes
for very big, very bad goals. it rattled brodeur and it rattled kiprusof.
more bad goals followed, in both cases, and the two celebrated goalies were
chased from the net, ultimately and, very likely, from any further
first-string status on their respective national teams. the usa won both
those games against the canadians and the finns. the usa had their miracle
on ice in the 1980 olympics; the game against finland was their massacre on
ice. they clobbered the suddenly hapless and meek finns 6-0 in the first
period and cruised to a 6-1 victory.

this changing of the guard opened up, in the canadian's case, the
opportunity of a lifetime for roberto luongo, the backup canadian goaltender
who had not previously played any key games for the biggest canadian
national team. luongo did well enough in subsequent games with germany and
russia, winning them both, to earn the start against slovakia in the
semi-final. and the games were in vancouver, where luongo plays for the
vancouver canucks in the nhl. in fact he is captain canuck, the only goalie
captain of an nhl team. his rink. his crowd. his country. and what a luongo
crowd. they chant "llllouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu"
every time he makes a save, an awed and appreciative serenade of the
canadian netminder every time he does anything. and they wail it with
fervent devotion when he performs spectacular, sprawling, game-saving
gymnastics on his keister.

the glove from above came with 9 seconds left in the game. the score was
3-2 for the canadians against the deadly slovaks who were pressing like
vlad's overwhelming forces in upon the canadian net for a goal and a chance
to play overtime. luongo's vancouver canuck teammate pavol demitra, now
playing for slovakia, was left with the puck at the side of the net with
lots of open space to smack the puck into the goal. somehow the puck stayed
out and glanced off the crossbar away from the net. several replays showed
that luongo sprawled to place his glove quite close to--and above--the spot
where demitra shot the puck. this forced demitra to shoot high. did the puck
glance off luongo's glove and then the post? commentators said it was so.
the glove from above. they said it was so. let us say the faithful do indeed
believe unto fervent devotion in vancouver and canada where hockey is not a
religion but an obsession totally out of control.

perhaps we shall never know. perhaps unseen video will show it more clearly.
the mysterious glove from above. did luongo touch the puck at all? was it
divine intervention? or a trick of the camera? demitra put his hands over
his head and shook his head in astonishment and shock when the play ended,
the game was over, and utter joyful pandemonium ensued in the vancouver
audience and on the ice for the canadian team.

the glove from above trumped the brilliant performance of jaroslav halak
despite a questionable first goal against luongo where the clever slovaks
squeaked the puck behind luongo's knee via a corner shot from the goal line.
it didn't matter. the glove from above hovers in bright mystery as the
game-saving brilliance of a night full of brilliant plays by both squads.

the glove from above was the exclamation point on a stupendous third-period
performance by luongo. yes except for that first goal. he made timely saves.
he made quite a few of them in the third period when the slovaks outshot the
canadians 12-7 though, over the entire three periods, canada outshot the
slovaks 28-21.

the crowd, in the third period, when it was still 3-0 for canada, began
chanting "we want the usa". but as the slovaks closed in and made it a 3-2
game with 5 minutes left to play, that chant was totally silenced--the
canadians were made to worry very deeply about just hanging on for the last
5 minutes.

it was a thrilling conclusion to a match played so well it will indeed go
down in canadian hockey history as one of the most thrilling, well-played
games of all time. there were only 3 penalties in the entire game. the last
slovak penalty resulted in getzlaf's winning goal, while the slovaks could
not pot one during their one power play opportunity.

the luongo legend deepens as canada moves on to play the usa in the gold
medal game on sunday, two days from now, in a game that more or less every
canadian on the planet will want to watch. and, i imagine, many more
millions of usamericans. the usa has simply been perfect thus far in the
tournament. they have beaten everyone they've played in regulation time.
although they only have 3 olympic veterans on their squad, the young stars
have emerged as the most formidable and impressive team in the tournament.
they easily defeated canada 5-3 earlier in the tournament. and their
goaltender, ryan miller, has been as good as any other. let's hope it's a
beaut of a game.


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