Canucks 4 at Avalanche 5 (SO): Steve Bernier’s Coming Out Party…
The Vancouver Canucks faced the Colorado Avalanche Sunday, December 7, 2008. Vancouver came into the game having bested Minnesota 2 – 1 on Friday, ending a four-game losing streak and attempting to salvage a gruelling seven game road swing. Colorado, meanwhile, also played Friday, having lost to Dallas 2 – 1 in a shootout.
The game was a spirited affair, with the lead swinging between the teams. Ultimately, the game was decided on a shootout. Rookie goaltender Cory Schneider was unable to stop any of the three Avalanche shooters (Woitek; Marek; Milan), while Pavol Dimitra, the Canucks’ second shooter, was easily stopped by Colorado goalie Peter Budaj (Wellwood scored as Vancouver’s first shooter). That made a third Canucks’ shooter unnecessary.
The story of the game, however, was the emergence of Steve Bernier.
Much maligned among Vancouver fans, Bernier’s season to date featured a series of missed scoring opportunities, many of them of the “give me” variety: wide-open nets on smart feeds from his line mates. As the missed chances piled up, it seemed clear Bernier’s confidence was getting shaky – this, after all, is a player who had no problem piling up the points in the Junior and Minor leagues: he totalled 313 points in just 272 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, including 49 goals and 52 assists for 101 points in 71 games in the 2002 – 2003 season. In Vancouver, however, it just wasn’t clicking. Bernier had just a single assist in the five games heading into the game against Colorado.
What a difference a game makes.
Against the Avalanche tonight, Steve Bernier scored on the power play 17:45 into the second period, poking home a puck sitting idly behind Budaj. It was the sort of “give me” goal Bernier almost surely would have found a way to miss earlier this season. Then, at 9:57 of the third, Bernier found some open ice in the slot and wristed a great feed from the corner from Alex Burrows for his second of the game. Bernier’s increased confidence level was obvious after that – later in the third he made a great move, coming down the right wing with speed, then going inside on the Colorado defenseman, skating directly into the slot before firing a backhand off the post. The puck didn’t go in, and Bernier didn’t get his first career hat trick, but it seemed a move he wouldn’t have thought of attempting prior to the pair of goals he scored tonight.
It’s just one game. But for the Vancouver Canucks, the emergence of Steve Bernier as a reliable contributor to the team’s offense would open an entirely new dimension to their game, much as Ryan Kessler’s emergence as a true, two-way power forward has done.
The Canucks next visit the Nashville Predators, 5pm PST, Tuesday December 9. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet Pacific, and is available in HD.