You Could Almost See It Coming
It is often said that teams will mirror the personality of their coach. If you were fortunate enough to watch the Vancouver Canucks play the L.A. Kings last night, new life was breathed into that sentiment.
The game itself was essentially a four point match, with the Canucks having the opportunity to leapfrog the Kings in the standings with a regulation victory.
And perhaps, maybe a season ago, that’s all Vancouver would’ve focused on.
The history wouldn’t matter. No line would be drawn in the sand and the team’s stars would be, more or less, fair game; the mindset being that the Canucks would make them suffer on the scoreboard with power play opportunities rather than physically.
But this isn’t a year ago, and this is no longer Alain Vigneault‘s team. For better (and) or worse, this team made a statement tonight that will echo longer than any January victory could ever hope to.
That statement was both short and sweet: “You will not F#$^ with our stars, and god help you if you do”.
For every liberty the Kings took tonight, the Canucks returned the favour in spades. Even past-transgressions were dealt with, as multiple Canucks took runs at Jonathan Quick.
Is this how hockey should be played? Well, I’m not entirely sure. But as a Canucks fan who is all too familiar with watching Vancouver’s goalies get run ramshod over, and their stars turned into punching bags, I can assure you that at the very least it was refreshing.
As was stated earlier, the Canucks aren’t even a season removed from their antagonistic game-plan, where power plays were their sole-means of retribution. It was going to take one hell of a swing to wake this apparently sleeping beast, and even then Vancouver was bound to be a victim of their inexperience in this regard.
This was evident early on, as Zack Kassian (he off the burdensome intellect) spent the entirety of his first shift, all nine seconds of it, trying to goat Dustin Brown into a fight.
This, of course, was Kassian’s attempt at avenging his fallen goaltender, Roberto Luongo, who suffered an ankle injury when Brown, in the most inconspicuous of fashions, put a shoulder into Luongo and injured his ankle.
One can surely appreciate the Kassquatch’s effort, but the result of his heroics was a stupid penalty, taken quite literally right in front of the refs. And from there, things just snowballed.
Almost immediately after killing that penalty, the Canucks went into retribution redux, as Jordan Nolan took a run at Henrik Sedin. The ensuing offensive zone draw Tom Sestito jumped Nolan, who oddly enough turtled and was rescued by the refs. Go figure. For his troubles, Sestito was ejected from the game and given a whopping 27 minutes in penalties.
Sure, the Canucks had found an inner-toughness, but it had apparently arrived at the expense of their intellect. They would spend nearly 11 minutes shorthanded that period; not exactly ideal.
When Tough Turned to Mean
The Canucks may have been tough in the first period, but it unfortunately led to them playing over half of it shorthanded. Not exactly the recipe for success.
Not sure what John Tortorella said in between periods, but I’m sure it was swear-free and family friendly… OK, maybe not, but whatever the case, they got their heads screwed on right and came out in the second just as pugnacious, but without throwing the game away.
It was truly something to behold.
Kesler fought his future Olympic teammate, Dustin Brown; Kevin Bieksa took a shot at Jonathan Quick, and answered the bell when Matt Greene rushed to his goalie’s defense; and after that, Dale Weise laid down one of the meanest, cheapest slew-foots on Drew Doughty that I ever did see.
Live by the sword, die by the sword… Kings…
And you know what all of those plays had in common? For right or wrong, none of them resulted in a Kings power play! Not one! Greene picked up an instigator that negated the Bieksa penalty and the Weise slew-foot went unnoticed by the ref – much like the Brown leap onto Lu, that probably started all of this.
Talk about walking a fine line…
The Canucks are several sociopaths away from entering Boston Bruins territory, but whatever this new identity they are starting to carve out for themselves is reminiscent of, I like it.
The Sedins not only aren’t fighters, but they shouldn’t have to be; that’s two-thirds of the Canucks first line. Luongo can’t defend himself.
The Kassian’s, Weise’s and Sestito’s have to be the one’s defending these guys – night in, night out.
While the 1-0 result leaves much to be desired, enough can not be said of the Canucks effort on the night. They controlled play for huge chunks of that game and re-asserted their position as the league’s top-dogs on the penalty kill.
But more importantly, they let the league know they won’t be pushed around.
Well worth the four points, if you ask me.