by Cono Spitale
It took over 24 years for a Russian dream to come true for Vancouver Canucks’ forward Sergei Shirokov Tuesday night n Denver Colorado.
The 24-year-old Shirokov scored his first NHL goal in a 4-3 loss to the Avalanche but could have had several more as he played an excellent game as a ‘Top 6′ forward. He made Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson come up with several big saves as Shirokov seamlessly fit into the Canucks second line headed by centre Ryan Kesler.
“I had a few chances, I could have scored on three or four good chances and finally Henrik touched my stick and I scored a goal,” Shirokov said after the game to a Vancouver newspaper reporter. “I went to backhand and shot the five hole because two guys scored through his five hole,” he said.
Shirokov was a disappointment at training camp after he arrived out of shape, according to Canuck coach Alain Vigneault. Vigneault said that’s all water under the rink now.
“For my standpoint, that’s all behind us,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “The young man went to Manitoba, turned the page on what happened in training camp and has worked real hard and made himself into their best player…he played a real good first game.”
For a little Russian boy growing up in Moscow, Shirokov, like all Russian players, dreamed of playing the National Hockey League. At 24, he is considered a late bloomer to finally make it because of the aforementioned fitness issues and also finding the desire necessary to make himself NHL-ready.
His linemate Ryan Kesler, the first to greet him after Shirokov made a nifty forehand to backhand move with the puck in front of Anderson before scoring, said at training camp that Shirokov had NHL skills but needed a little pro seasoning in Manitoba before making to ‘The Show’ – just like Kesler did before becoming the NHL star player he is now.
It’s a lock Shirokov will continue living his dream Friday when the Canucks face the San Jose Sharks in Vancouver. Vigneault knows as a long-time coach that the hardest players to find are the ones who can score the kind of goals the young Russian did on Tuesday.