Early in Saturday night’s affair, it was clear that the Ottawa Senators had heard the rumours that the Canucks wilted at physical play, and playing rough appeared to be their strategy from the outset. Unfortunately, when your strategy involves giving Chris Neil more icetime than any other forward, it’s probably not going to win you many games.

What people don’t seem to realize is that it wasn’t the Boston Bruins’ toughness that won them the Stanley Cup Final — it was their skill. It’s just that their skill happened to also be tough. Anybody that thinks you can beat the Canucks by gooning it up with less skilled players will see results like this game — results that I saw as well, because I watched this game.

Canucks 4 – 1 Senators

  • Like Sweet Sweetback, the Canucks scored early in this one, getting on the board only 1:10 into the first. But the score was quick on two levels — the goal also came four seconds into the first powerplay of the game. After Ryan Kesler won the draw, Henrik Sedin moved it to Alex Edler at the point, and Edler wristed it at Craig Anderson, who was being screened by Chris Phillips (while attempting to keep Kesler from screening him). Before the Sens’ goalie knew what hit him (which was nothing), the puck was in the net.
  • Kesler scored a goal of his own not long after, as he and Jannik Hansen broke into the Senators’ zone, 2-on-1. As Hansen always does on a 2-on-1, he passed. It was a lovely saucer pass, up and over the defenders’ stick, and Kesler’s redirect was equally lovely. Unfortunately for Anderson, unlike another Mr. Anderson, he wasn’t able to move fast enough to stop the shot.
  • More Kesler. Just like the Canucks’ first goal, their third was the result of Kesler getting the better of Chris Phillips in front of the Senators’ goal. Something Kesler is really good at: allowing himself to be pushed into opposing netminders, then taking his sweet time vacating the area. That’s what happened on this goal, as he allowed himself to be ridden into the crease like a swimsuit at the waterslides, then just stayed there. Once the Sedins brought it to the goalmouth, he was in perfect position to bang it home. Seriously, Kesler spent more time in the blue paint than Tobias Funke.
  • In case it wasn’t already clear that Kesler was fantastic Saturday night: In 32 shifts (a game-high), he had 2 goals, 1 assist, 6 shots (a game-high), 3 takeaways, 2 blocked shots, won 13 faceoffs (a game-high), and rendered the Senators’ first line completely invisible. And after the game, he laid hands on Cody Hodgson and healed his concussion.
  • Speaking of Hodgson, here’s hoping he’s okay after taking that shot to the head from Nick Foligno. It looked accidental, what with Hodgson trying to make a sudden cut inside on Foligno and losing an edge in doing so, but that certainly didn’t mitigate the damage to the rookie. Between the Bambi legs and the Dopey simper, a concussion seemed likely. I know Alain Vigneault said Hodgson was “fine” after the game, and I’m sure they’d like him to be, so as to avoid another games of Andrew Alberts at forward (or worse, Victor Oreskovich, amirite Alain Vigneault?), but that looked serious, and I hope they treat it accordingly.
  • Shortly afterward, Dale Weise had a spirited scrap with Foligno, which was impressive since neither guy was overly into it. (Weise told reporters he simply approached Foligno and said, “Hey, we’re going to have to go here.” Intimidating he ain’t.) But good on Weise for doing something. If he hadn’t, Tony Gallagher would have written another article about the Canucks lacking team toughness, because without a friendly fistfight after an accidental headshot, how would anybody know not to mess with you?
  • Weise has begun to face some criticism from people upset that he doesn’t win his fights (and he didn’t win versus Foligno), but he showed Saturday night that he wasn’t just picked up to pound on guys. Sure, he can scrap, but he can also play hockey. Consider his fabulous goal, which iced the game. It wasn’t just that Weise scored on a skilful power move. It’s that he was on the ice with Kesler and Mason Raymond at the time. Unlike a goon, Weise has the actual hockey skill to move up the lineup in case of an injury like the one to Hodgson.
  • There were, by my count, about 52,000 mentions of the penalty box door incident in this game. By the end, it felt a little played out. I loved when Ron Maclean tried to bring it up again and Don Cherry just made fun of him for not liking Alex Burrows. I’m not a huge Don Cherry fan, but I have time for anybody who takes time to make fun of Ron Maclean.
  • During one of the early post-whistle scrums, as everyone paired off, Dan Hamhuis wound up next to  Jason Spezza. Neither had any interest in rough stuff, so they simply put a hand on one another’s shoulders and smiled, relieved, like middle-schoolers at a dance.
  • Chris Neil was more into the rough stuff. He was all over Saturday night’s affair, running around and picking fights with whomever he could. He had a cheap shot to the back of Burrows’ head, he got at Daniel Sedin (prompting a hilarious response by notorious goon Henrik ), and he slashed Dan Hamhuis, which is like punting a baby.
  • It was interesting to see the way the Canucks responded to Neil targeting their stars, going after Daniel Alfredsson in particular. Kesler ran into him after the whistle, Jannik Hansen gave him a nasty crosscheck to the midsection. How the Hansen cheap shot went unpenalized is beyond me, but I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the Canucks returning the favour.
  • Speaking of returning, Nick Foligno returned to his head-hitting ways midway through the second, going after Kesler as the Canucks’ centre was falling along the boards. While the hit on Hodgson was somewhat excusable, this one was less so. Foligno appeared to have plenty of time to not hit Kesler in the head, and instead drove through him. Then, afterward, he (and the Ottawa media) had the gall to claim Kesler embellished. Embellished what, exactly? Being vulnerable to a headshot? I bet these guys think zombies embellish constantly.
  • The refereeing in this game was infuriatingly even. Both teams finished with 29 penalty minutes, but considering the Senators’ gameplan, this seems absurd. As Kevin Bieksa divulged after the game, one of the officials admitted to giving Neil the benefit of the doubt because the two were friends. Was there a bias at play here? No sir. The refs were just crummy. Case in point: play was blown dead for a Daniel Sedin interference penalty 15 seconds after the referees’ arm went up for it. In that time, the Canucks had managed to get Roberto Luongo to the bench, get the extra man on, and attempt a shot on goal. Not since the film Fubar have I seen a fubar so fubared.
  • Yet another head hit, as Zack Smith took advantage of Alex Edler being on his knees to run the Canuck defender over. I loved the aftermath of this one, as Maxim Lapierre rose to Edler’s defence with a diving tackle like Hobbes greeting Calvin at the door. Some of you have criticized the Canucks’ passive response to stuff like this in the past, so I ask you: was that enough, or did you want Lapierre to also charge and fire his X-buster like Megaman?
  • The Canucks pretty much rolled three defense pairings all night. Hamhuis saw the most minutes 22:13, and Ballard saw the fewest, with 17:05. That’s not much of a discrepancy. It would seem Alain Vigneault is very happy with his defense.
  • And finally, despite many Canuck fans insisting that Schneider deserved the start after Roberto Luongo allowed three goals in Montreal, Alain Vigneault chose to start Luongo anyway. Luongo was fantastic. He’s now riding a four-game win streak and is looking quite good. The only time he didn’t look good was in that brief segment of his pregame stretches. Bleh. What a lanky man.
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43 comments

  1. Wisp
    December 11, 2011

    Hmmm… Megaman X reference instead of the more obvious Metroid one… -4 points…

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    • Harrison Mooney
      December 11, 2011

      Megaman X > Metroid

      YUP.

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      • Wisp
        December 11, 2011

        This is worth boycotting PITB. Consider yourself boyed and cotted.

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        • Harrison Mooney
          December 11, 2011

          Ha. This comment has been hidden. People, he’s joking…. I hope.

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          • Wisp
            December 11, 2011

            Lol. Yes, I joke.

            Though Metroid is still better than anything.

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            • Harrison Mooney
              December 11, 2011

              Just so we’re clear, the heirarchy of SNES games is as follows:

              1. Earthbound.
              2. Megaman X.
              3. Super Mario Kart.
              4. Metroid.
              5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
              6. Donkey Kong Country.
              7. Super Mario World.
              8. Chrono Trigger.
              9. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
              10. Street Fighter II Turbo.

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              • JDM
                December 11, 2011

                The glaring omission of Final Fantasy 6 (aka arguably the best RPG of all time) is laughable and instantly renders the whole thing meaningless.

                Which is surprising given how slanted the list is towards established franchises; it’s like a list put together by Rolling Stone. Super Mario World? Not without its charm, granted, but a pretty formulaic platformer. Street Fighter? You’re giving out points for pure nostalgia now; if you need a 2d fighter Killer Instinct is the quintessential title for SNES.

                *goes and downloads ROM of Secret of Mana 2*

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              • Harrison Mooney
                December 12, 2011

                Killer Instinct BLOWS. Never played Secret of Mana.

                I’ll admit I skew towards the games I owned and feel the most nostalgic towards, but come on, Super Mario World was fracking fantastic.

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  2. Anonymous
    December 11, 2011

    So you think Daniel Alfredsson still doesn’t hate the Canucks?

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  3. Josh
    December 11, 2011

    You didn’t mention the cute bit where Cassie Campbell warmly informed us that Luongo was having a great game on the night for the Ottawa Senators.

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    • caj
      December 11, 2011

      Or when she snickered about the headshot?!

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      • John in Marpole
        December 11, 2011

        All the more strange since her father-in-law is retired BCTV sports directer/ sportsguy (and Monday Night wrestling at the PNE Garden Auditorium in-ring announcer) Bernie Pascal.

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  4. Reece
    December 11, 2011

    I think it’s also worth noting that by jumping on Zack Smith, Lapierre also gave away a dangerous 2-1 down low – as Megman (se)Xy as it was

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  5. Kitty
    December 11, 2011

    I enjoyed the Arrested Development reference, especially since a certain segment of the Canucks fanbase (i.e. me) thinks Luongo is a never-nude. He’s never shirtless! Never! And he said his body was for “one pair of eyes only.” Oh really, Lui? Not *two* pairs of eyes, given that you’re married??

    Never-nude.

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  6. invisibleairwaves
    December 11, 2011

    I wasn’t really thrilled to see Lapierre tackling Smith. Not only did it take him out of the play as Reese noted, but it also led to a Sens powerplay that turned into a 5-on-3. Not too smart considering a Sens goal would have turned it into a one-goal game against a team with a reputation for third period comebacks this season. For all the talk of “toughness” brought on by the SCF, the Canucks are still a better team when they don’t respond to this stuff, especially when it’s, at worst, pretty marginal (apologies to Joe Sacco).

    And on that note, it’s somewhat amusing to see other teams fail to realize that the lack of response is a strength rather than a weakness. Paul McLean must have been under the impression that Brad Marchand won the Conn Smythe instead of Tim Thomas. Cheapshotting a team every 5 minutes to throw them off their game only works when you have one of the best goaltenders in the league to bail you out on the PK afterwards. Craig Anderson is….not in that category, to say the least.

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  7. jenny wren
    December 11, 2011

    They won as they are wont to do
    Luongo got a shutout too
    (Although he let a soft one through
    The ruling was the whistle blew)

    That first quatrain I cannot use
    Because the Sens did put one in
    Though it was clear that they would lose
    And the Canucks go on to win

    There is no doubt that Kesler’s back
    While centering the second line
    He’s ev’ry shift on the attack
    His wingers too are looking fine

    And that fourth goal by Mr. Weise
    One wonders will the wonders cease

    Jenny Wren

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  8. Chinstrap Joe
    December 11, 2011

    Lapierre showed classic canine alpha-male dominance by forcing Smith onto his back and mounting him. Accordingly, next time they see each other, Smith will acknowlege Lapierre as the alpha-male by lying on his back with his paws up – which in turn should lead to a lot of butt sniffing – which in turn should lead to a two on one for us and a goal. Brilliant.

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  9. Jim
    December 11, 2011

    I was at the game, and there was an ample amount of Canuck fans at the game. After Weise scored, most Sens fans left, and it was just Vancouver fans, which was a fun couple of minutes.

    As well, it was Roger Neilson night, and every fan got a towel. If Ottawa played well, it might have worked out well for them, but I don’t think it had the desired result for them. While jerseys are a dead giveaway, it really allowed you to see how many Canuck fans there were when Vancouver scored, and I’d guess about 1/3rd of the arena weren’t cheering for the home team.

    Anyways – there was tons of confusion in the arena about the delayed interference call on Henrik. Even Sens fans thought it was a dive by Alfredsson, especially because no one heard a whistle when Vancouver got possession. I suspect that one referee was caling it interference, and one was calling it a dive, but no one wanted to blow the play down.

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    • invisibleairwaves
      December 11, 2011

      Hahah, you could hear the “Luuuu”s pretty clearly on every save even through the CBC web stream. Pretty cool. Lots of Canucks fans in Ottawa?

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    • peanutflower
      December 11, 2011

      I thought it was really odd that a) it was Roger Neilsen night and so towels were provided but not much else in the way of remembering the Rog; b) towels are a Canucks fan’s best friend; c) there were tons of Canuck fans at the game; and d) the Senators provided every Canucks fan with the thing they love the most and a great opportunity to wave it.

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  10. peanutflower
    December 11, 2011

    From another Canucks hockey blog: Best WTF:
    “That’s a reason people don’t like Vancouver. They say the wrong stuff at the wrong time and they embellish stuff.”
    — Mike Milbury on the HNIC telecast, angered that Ryan Kesler thought Foligno targetted his head.

    Second best WTF — NHL naming Neil to third star. Seriously, WTF!

    That was a hilarious game. It had the potential to evolve into THAT Canucks/Avs game, but instead of hitting someone, Dale Weisetuzzi got a goal with a typical Todd-ish power move. What a goal! I watched it, oh, 10 times. I’m going to watch it again.

    Best stylish move: Kes giving kudos to Hansen for that slick pass instead of doing his turn about the boards guaranteed to infuriate other fans. But hey, wait, wasn’t this game played in Vancouver? It sounded like it…

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    • tj
      December 11, 2011

      I missed this game and looked around for recaps. To read Garrioch and a number of others tell it, you’d think the Sens won this one with their ‘gritty play.’ Seriously. Guess that’s another WTF…

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  11. Zach Morris
    December 11, 2011

    My favorite part of the night?
    Craig Anderson coming up with this gem:
    “We played real physical. We were taking the body and making good body checks and we were playing the game we wanted to play.”
    Go ahead, Ottawa, play that way whenever you want to. Play that way every time you play us, in fact.
    Then you can be be happy that you played the way you wanted, and we can be happy we won.

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    • peanutflower
      December 11, 2011

      This is now my facebook status. With credit, of course.

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  12. Kent Basky
    December 11, 2011

    Last night was like a documentary on how the hockey world is pushing to control the way people perceive the Vancouver Canucks. Chris Neil running around cheapshotting and abusing the Sedins was worthy of praise, because they’re soft. He was given 3 spontaneous spotlights during the game. How much time was devoted to Kes and the 2nd line shutting down the top goal scorer in the NHL? Or why is taking shots at the Sedins viewed as ‘what you have to do to beat the Canucks’, yet when the same treatment is applied to Ottawa’s stars, it’s called out as dirty play? Foligno’s progression from ‘Sidney Crosby elbowed me in the face!!!1!’ to calling out Kesler for ‘embellishment’ is comical. If anything, last night showed that not only do the Canucks respond when you try to take liberties, they also beat you where it matters: on the scoreboard. The icing on the cake was Weise going around Neil to score that goal. Neil looked so slow Dana Murzyn yelled at his tv “OH COME ON, MAN!!!”

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    • peanutflower
      December 11, 2011

      perfect.

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    • Nee
      December 11, 2011

      A-freaking-men Kent!

      It’s an easy way to attract attention and eye balls, dumping on the team. Not saying all media do it, or that the Canucks are angels, but the storyline for the Nucks this season is lazy and inaccurate.

      Jesse Spector tweeted this yesterday, tongue in cheek:

      jessespector Jesse Spector
      Red Wings, who are powered by dreams and poop rainbows: 18-9-1. Canucks, who are a gong show of woe and smell like rancid yogurt: 18-10-1.

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      • Kent Basky
        December 11, 2011

        Haha… oddly enough, I RT’d that and posted it over at Nucks Misconduct in the game thread.

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  13. John Andress
    December 11, 2011

    Great team effort and win but I have two worries about the way teams are playing the Canucks so physically. I like the fact that Vancouver maintains their discipline and composure and I am not of the “bring in a knuckle-dragger to take care of things” school of thought but I wonder whether the Canucks have the depth to survive the attrition that this will entail, Booth and, potentially, Hodgson in a short span and with Neal rampaging like a demented dinosaur it could have been much worse, ie: Kesler, Edler, Burrows any Sedin as well. And so many of the referees seem to buy into the theory that the Canucks are embellishers and dive artists. What happens when we encounter referees who macho up and turn a blind eye and resist calling even the most blatant of fouls? It is a path fraught with peril and, frankly, being an opponent of fighting in hockey, I don’t know what the answer is. Well, I do actually. The answer is that the opposition should be required to play hockey by the officials and league doing their jobs. I wonder, though, whether that will happen consistently. Teams like the Bruins for example were given a lot of leeway and a team will have to be very good and very, very deep to survive that.

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  14. J21
    December 11, 2011

    I watched this game in person (to Jim above, if you saw the guy in the Lumme jersey, that was me) and I was actually surprised to see how much tempers were flaring online when I got home, because the extent of how bad it was wasn’t nearly as obvious in person, particularly as both Foligno headshots happened at the other end (but same boards) from my seat, and Scotiabank Place avoids replays of most things that make their team look bad (they did show Canuck goals at least, to their credit).

    The media-generated hate is getting obnoxious just because most fans are gullible enough to buy into it. And it’s not just frustrating because of the obsessive exaggeration — it’s doubly worse when the very accusations are even truer for the other team — as this game demonstrated. I don’t see how all this mud can be slung at a team with so many soft-spoken Scandinavians. Lapierre and Burrows don’t do nearly enough to overcome the team’s balance in this direction.

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    • Rituro
      December 11, 2011

      Ah, a Lumme jersey! Suddenly, J21 makes a lot more sense.

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  15. J21
    December 11, 2011

    By my last comment, I should clarify that I don’t mean I want Lapierre/Burrows to agitate more, but rather anyone who watches the Canucks and comes away with “Québécois agitators” as the theme of the team really just isn’t watching.

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  16. The Bookie
    December 11, 2011

    quote of the game came from my gf during that ridiculous segment showing Lu’s warm-up stretches:

    gf: “Oh, they pulled Roberto?”
    me: “NO – why would they when he’s winning?”
    gf: “I thought cause they figured the game’s in the bag, he asked to get out early so he could get ready for a dance party.”

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  17. RepubliCameroon
    December 11, 2011

    I took a road trip to attend this one. Turns out about 7,000 other Canucks faithful did too. I have no idea what the Sens were thinking, handing out towels to Canucks fans, and expecting to stand a chance. I suppose they haven’t gotten a chance to watch the playoffs in a while.

    J21 makes a good point about the media-fueled hate that the Canucks don’t deserve. I was unlucky enough to have a Lu-hater in my section, but like most Sens fans, he got real quiet as the game went on and eventually left early. Still, the ‘riot’ and ‘most-hated’ comments were plentiful.

    But with the Canucks in the lead for 59 minutes of the game, and lots of reasons to wave the towels, it was all too easy to embrace the hate.

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  18. bergberg
    December 12, 2011

    I also got to attend this game! Ottawa is hilarious, a town full of “I’ll only cheer for Ottawa if there is no one else I like better” fans. From the blue and red jerseys, I’d say Scotiabank was almost 50/50 Sens fans and Canucks fans.

    I may have been in the same section as RepubliCameroon above as there was a Lu-hater the row ahead of me as well. But I’ll give him some credit, he was pretty funny. A few of his gems:
    - Loungo this is the playoffs. Let some goals in.
    - How can we trick him into thinking this is Boston?
    - It sucks he’s playing well tonight.

    I don’t know who pissed off Nick Foligno, but that guy was on a rampage. I’ll also give him the benefit of the doubt, Hodgson did stumble before the contact resulting in the head shot, but it was still a dangerous play. When Hodgson got up, it looked like he had no clue where he was. The look of his head hanging limply to the side as they helped him off was a bit stomach turning. The fight afterwards with Wiess was a good one, and was respected by Sens fans and Canuck fans alike.

    Kelser was a beast in this game. But you know who else impressed me? Higgins. Every time he had the puck on his stick he was flying and looked dangerous for the Sens. Great for his first game back.

    I only wish they came to town more often so I could see more of my Canucks!!

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  19. bergberg
    December 12, 2011

    *Weise sorry!

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  20. Kate
    December 12, 2011

    “The only time he didn’t look good was in that brief segment of his pregame stretches. Bleh. What a lanky man” Haha no mancrush for Roberto?
    Good game but I don’t like all that scrummy stuff, it’s just annoying and takes up time. Can make for good screencaps though…looking at you Bieksa.

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    • tj
      December 12, 2011

      Yeah, scrummy stuff sends me to the fridge, so the less of it the better for my health. (Your Bieksa comment reminded me how Bieksa’s like the John Lennon of the group, while Kesler’s all Paul McCartney. Can’t decide if Manny or Salo is George, but no doubt Burrows is Ringo…)

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      • peanutflower
        December 12, 2011

        That’s where the PVR comes in. Especially with these early games. Start watching at 7 PST and then you can skip over all kinds of stuff. If you can skip over Milbury, McLean, Campbell, Cherry, etc etc it’s always a good thing.

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  21. tj
    December 12, 2011

    Yeah, I’m so over that panel. It’s painful and embarrassing to watch now. (I tried to voice my dismay over on the CBC site–careful to be diplomatic but honest, even complimenting the CBC– but curiously it never made it up on the boards. They really are going for ratings and website hits, playing on the emotions of Canucks fans to get high ratings. So, yeah, I agree I should PVR, but I am one of those without such a setup yet. Soon, HDMI and a pretty, large monitor will save me from the evils of Coaches Corner & After 40. (By the way, is it just me, or are they priming Milbury to be the ‘next Don Cherry’. Heaven help us.)

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    • gumby
      December 12, 2011

      He’s the guy that went into the stands to attack a fan and hit him with his own shoe. But it was Boston, and that’s just how they do it in Beantown, baby.

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  22. Peter
    December 29, 2011

    Wow… I’ve been reading this blog for over a year and I have to say this post leaves a bad taste… I considered you guys pretty fair and balanced, but wow. Neil cheap-shoting? I saw clean checks. Fair payment for hard checks is cross-checking a 39 year old with a history of back injury? Pretty ridiculous. I cheered for the Canucks last year because it seemed like there was a concerted effort to leave the diving/crying behind. The Bieksa and Kesler complaints to the media just put me back on the anti-Canucks bandwagon. Sorry guys, but I’m out.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      December 29, 2011

      Neil’s hit to Burrows’ head wasn’t a clean check. It was a blatant cheap shot. If you can’t see that, then I’m not sure you understand how cheap shots work. In any case, sorry that this one post somehow managed to make you hate our entire blog.

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