Alex Burrows might have been the star of game 2, with his two goals and an assist, including the overtime winner, but for Canucks center Manny Malhotra just playing in the game is a victory.
Malhotra was enjoying a fine 2010-11 season; playing for the league’s best team, scored his 100th career goal, and posted his third straight 30-point season. But on March 16, his world was flipped upside down. In a game against the Colorado Avalanche, Malhotra took a puck to the eye. He underwent surgery the next day, and was ruled out of the rest of the regular season and playoffs. A second surgery, a week later, was performed to save his eye and vision, according to his brother-in-law, NBA star Steve Nash. At the time, it was speculated that he might have to retire because of the injury. It looked like a giant blow to the Canucks’ penalty kill, which was ranked first in the league after being 18th the year before signing Malhotra.
However, as the Canucks kept advancing in the playoffs, the chances Malhotra would rejoin the team increased. In May, he started practicing, and by the end of the month, he was cleared to play in the Stanley Cup Final. He sat out game one, but Alain Vigneault inserted him into the lineup for tonight’s game two.
The crowd chanted “Manny, Manny” pregame and gave him a standing ovation when he stepped onto the ice for his first shift, about two minutes into the game. After the game, he admitted the ovation made him the most nervous he has ever been in his career. He played with a full face shield, despite not using one in the regular season prior to the injury.
In the regular season, Malhotra was second in the league, winning 61.7% of his faceoffs. The team missed him in game one, where they only won 44% of draws. Tonight, Malhotra went 6-for-7, and the Canucks as a team improved to 47 %. He only played 7:26, mainly on the fourth line with Victor Oreskovich and Jeff Tambellini, but contributed on the penalty kill as the Canucks held the Bruins to 1 for 7 on the man advantage.
Malhotra has drawn comparisons to Ian Laperriere, who last year returned for the Stanley Cup Final after taking a puck to the face in the first round, resulting in a concussion. Fortunately for Malhotra, he isn’t suffering from a brain injury.
With two more Canucks wins, Malhotra will get his name etched on the Stanley Cup, something well worth everything he’s been through this year.