Jason Garrison should consider it a form of therapy.
In the annual Vancouver Canucks' love-in, better known as the Super Skills competition, the struggling defenceman was greeted as a conquering hero, just like the rest of his teammates by the adoring faithful Sunday afternoon at Rogers Arena. That's what five-straight NHL victories mean in a hockey-mad market. Instead of enjoying a rare day of sunshine, a huge throng of true believers cheered every shot, save and even the expected shaving-cream pie to the face of rookie Jordan Schroeder.
And when Garrison wound up in the hardest-shot competition, the 28-year-old White Rock native unloaded a winning blast of 101.8 miles per hour. You could almost sense the piano-size pressure of living up to free-agent expectations slip a bit from his back. After all, that six-year, $27.6 million US contract carries tremendous weight on a club that believes it can again challenge for the Stanley Cup. Scoring just once through 11 games and being taken off the power play aren't what Garrison expected after 16 goals with the Florida Panthers last season. He looked good Sunday.
"I still feel like I had something left in the tank — it kept going up and up," Garrison said of his 97.4, 100.5 and winning 101.8 mph blasts. "I would have liked a couple of more shots. This was my first skills competition other than an All-Star Game. The fan support here is tremendous and every day I make a point of coming to the rink and having fun. It's what you have to do and a day like today was awesome to be out there. There are a lot of smiles going on around here."
If Garrison can maintain his enthusiasm and replicate that hard shot Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild, maybe he can get back on the power play because his ongoing struggles have included being demoted from both special-teams units Saturday during a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. And getting back on the power play won't be easy because Schroeder added a creative dimension to the first unit with Daniel Sedin on the point.
"It's a transition and it's as simple as that," reasoned Garrison. "The main thing is we're winning games and I'm happy to be a part of it. The power play is just part of the process and there are lot of combinations that we can put out there. I think that's a good thing."
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