When the Carolina Hurricanes need to slowdown or shutdown their opponent's top scorers, they usually call upon the unlikely pairing of Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason to get the job done. Why unlikely? Because one guy is known as an offensive dynamo, but according to some experts is supposedly lacking on defense. The other is a prototype "stay at home" defenseman who is relatively unknown. But both players are bringing their "A" games for these playoffs, and they are contributing at both ends of the rink.
While Joe Corvo is tied with Joni Pitkanen for fifth on the team with (7) points, how many people would have thought that Tim Gleason would have more points, (5) after 15 games in these playoffs than Erik Cole, (3) Tuomo Ruutu, (4) and Rod Brind'Amour (3)? The defenseman also has a game-winning goal to his credit. (His first goal of the season). Gleason doesn't get any powerplay time, so he has accomplished those numbers at even strength.
Corvo had such a bad reputation in Ottawa for playing defense, that he rarely saw the ice during a penalty kill. Now he's one of the first options for the Canes. Why the change? "Confidence", is what the defenseman would tell you. If the coaching staff shows confidence in a player and gives the player more responsibility and ice time, that confidence transcends to the player. Of couse, the player needs to respond positively as well, and Corvo has done exactly that. He has taken advantage of his opportunity, and made the most of it.
Could the pair be more different? While Corvo is not known as a physical player, Gleason loves to mix it up as much as possible and sometimes has to be instructed not to drop the gloves. They also seem like opposites in that Gleason prefers to sit back and concentrate on defense while Corvo is moving the puck forward and looking to score.
But the pair does have a few things in common. They are both American born. Corvo was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings and Gleason was drafted by Ottawa. (TY Dustin) The Canes acquired each of them from Los Angeles by trade because of some great work by Jim Rutherford.
Corvo was included with Patrick Eaves when Carolina traded Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore to Ottawa in February of 2008. Since then, Stillman and Commodore both signed to play for other teams, yet the Canes are still reaping the rewards of that one-sided trade.
Gleason came to Raleigh with Eric Belanger when Rutherford sent Oleg Tverdovsky and the rights to Jack Johnson to Hollywood. The Carolina general manager took a lot of criticism around the league, (as well as some at home) for that trade, but it is looking like aces right now. First of all, the Kings wasted one of Johnson's years as a restricted free agent by signing him right out of school in the Spring of 2007. Now the defenseman's over-reaching, eccentric father seems to be making this upcoming contract negotiation more of a challenge than it should be. The Canes don't need that kind of trouble and Rutherford looks like a genius once again.
Almost all season long, Corvo and Gleason have been assigned the task of shutting down the other team's top line, and nothing has changed for these playoffs. They were able to limit the heralded "ZZ Pop" line of Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Travis Zajac, cutting them completely off the scoresheet when it mattered the most. People were wondering what happened to Boston's leading scorers Marc Savard and Phil Kessel during the first five games of that series when they were almost invisible.
Now after one game, they have been able to keep Sid Crosby and his dangerous linemates off the scoresheet. It will be a major undertaking to repeat that achievement, but don't underestimate these boys. Much like the Hurricanes team itself, they are resilient, and they never give up.
Wouldn't it be great to see them paired up as teammates in the 2010 Olympics? Team USA could do much worse.