The biggest story of the Canucks win over the Blue Jackets last night wasn’t Cody Hodgson’s first goal of the season, the come from behind victory in the third period, or Cory Schneider’s crucial save on a penalty shot. Instead, most fans and the media focused in on a two-minute minor for boarding in the second period and the subsequent response from the Canucks.
As seen in the video above, Marc Methot finished his check on Henrik Sedin while Henrik had his back turned and was facing the boards. Henrik left the ice favouring and shaking out his right knee, but played a regular shift on the ensuing powerplay before leaving for the dressing room briefly to get it checked out. He returned to play the rest of the game and tallied an assist on Burrows’ game winning goal.
While there has been talk about a suspension, Bob McKenzie reported on the Team 1040 this morning that there would be no further action taken by the league.
So the story isn’t about an injury, or another suspension, or the physical play of the Blue Jackets shutting down the Sedins. The story is that the Canucks did not respond to the hit, reminding many of the liberties taken in the Stanley Cup Final by the Boston Bruins — in particular, Brad Marchand’s series of gloved punches to Daniel Sedin that continues to haunt Canuck fans. The concern, then, is that the Canucks did not show enough pushback to dissuade teams from targeting the Sedins.
So what response should the Canucks have had? What more could have been done?
The players on the ice at the time of the hit were Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Sami Salo, Alex Edler, and, of course, Henrik Sedin. Which of those players is going to drop the gloves with Methot? The most obvious person would be Burrows, who fought later in the game, and, as you can see in the video, attempts to engage with Methot before being immediately separated by the linesman. The issue is that the five players on the ice were the Canucks top powerplay unit by the end of the game; with a two and possible five-minute powerplay coming, the Canucks want all five of those players on the ice, not sitting in the penalty box.
So a fight immediately after the hit would have been ideal response, as Jay Rosehill did to Jody Shelley, for instance, but it would have worked against the Canucks, who wanted to take the lead in a tight game. Which of those five players would you replace with a fighter? Would you rather have Aaron Volpatti or Dale Weise on the top line with the Sedins? The answer had better be no.
Since a fight immediately after the hit was prevented by the linesman and would have been counter to the effectiveness of the powerplay, a fight later on would have to suffice. But Methot wasn’t up for it; he was challenged by Kevin Bieksa later in the game, but refused to fight. Volpatti was itching to take him on too, but was seldom able to get on the ice opposite Methot and was refused when he was.
At what point does this stop being about the lack of toughness on the Canucks’ roster and becomes about the lack of accountability from Marc Methot? The Canucks do not lack in toughness, whether the team toughness of being able to take a hit to make a play or the traditional toughness associated with fighting. Volpatti one-punched Brad Winchester in the pre-season, while Dale Weise is no stranger to dropping the gloves. Other players on the Canucks have had their fair share of fights in their careers, with Kevin Bieksa likely being the most feared combatant amongst them.
But if your opponent refuses to fight, what can be done? The alternative would be to attack Methot in the same way J-F Jacques went after Mike Duco in the pre-season, a move that earned Jacques a suspension and derision from the media and fans.
“There were people who went over to him,” said Bieksa after the game, “And after the two of us challenged him, he said ‘no’ to us. You either take an instigator on him or you play the game. You have to pick your spots. We decided to do that.”
Volpatti told the same story: “If he’s not going to drop the gloves, you can’t take a penalty. It’s part of our job to try to keep other guys honest. He knows that we didn’t like the hit and it’s a long season.”
The Canucks chose to instead punish the Blue Jackets on the scoreboard and leave any retribution or physical response to a later date. And, on a later powerplay, they did just that, as Alex Burrows stuffed in his own rebound halfway through the third period. That’s why the comparison to the Stanley Cup Final doesn’t add up. The Canucks didn’t lose that series because of a lack of physical response to the treatment of the Sedins; they lost that series because they couldn’t score on Tim Thomas, who Steve Mason is not.
The Canucks were 2-for-33 on the powerplay in the Stanley Cup Final. Their regular season zen tactic of responding to cheap shots with goals withered against the phenomenal goaltending of Tim Thomas. Against the Blue Jackets, however, the powerplay paid off, winning the Canucks the game.
There is some concern that teams will continue to target the Sedins with cheap shots and physical play, but if the Canucks continue their powerplay dominance from last season, other teams won’t be able to afford to take penalties and the cheap shots will disappear. The answer isn’t to sign a goon or put a fourth liner on the Sedins’ wing. The Canucks will respond physically when necessary and when possible, but will respond on the powerplay far more often.Tags: Blue Jackets, Canucks, featured, fighting, Henrik Sedin, Marc Methot