Apart from the scoreboard reading 1-0 when the final horn sounded, there wasn’t a single image in the Canucks and Kings Game 3 tilt quite as scary as a stunned Henrik Sedin weakly knocking at the bench door after being rocked by Dustin Brown.
It was a clean hit. Still, it was a huge hit that, as far as anyone knew at the time, had knocked Henrik out of the game and potentially the series. And thus, it necessitated a “response.”
Ah, the rhetoric of the response. It seems to me that when hockey fans call for a response, they’re hoping that the offending party will be beaten within an inch of his life but that he’ll magically pop back up with little more than a lesson learned, uninjured and effectively deterred.
From what I gather, public sentiment is that the response the Canucks mounted wasn’t appropriate. This leads me to wonder what, exactly, Canuck fans wanted instead.
Let’s look at the hit and its immediate aftermath.
Just after Brown makes the hit, the Canucks stave off a chance for the Kings. Then, once the puck is on its way out of the zone, Kevin Bieksa makes a beeline for Brown. He grabs the Kings’ forward with an eye towards engaging him.
But Brown goes completely limp (we’ll call it reverse turtling, since he intentionally makes himself more vulnerable) and lets Bieksa take him to the ice. Clearly, his only interest is in drawing a penalty.
This is wisdom on Brown’s part. The officials saw the hit as clean, which means Brown has done nothing wrong, and as long as he continues to remain an innocent, Bieksa will go to the box alone. That’s what happened, too.
Meanwhile, Alex Burrows emerges from the scrum with Anze Kopitar, who participates in the first fight of his NHL career.
First of all, if this situation is reversed, Bieksa is cursed not just for turtling, but for forcing a skill player — effectively Henrik Sedin in this analogy — to stand up for him. And the Canucks are torn to shreds for their lack of toughness when their first line centre has to fight because their tough guy bailed.
Instead, the Canucks were torn to shreds anyway for Bieksa giving Brown a facewash and nothing more. In the intermission, for example, P.J. stock called them out for having no response. Many agreed.
No doubt it’s frustrating. If Bieksa’s going to take a minor penalty for attempting to make Brown pay for the hit, you want it to be for something more than a sweaty glove smear. But if you stop and think about it for a second, Bieksa’s response was pretty much all he could do without Brown’s consent.
What were the other options? Sucker punches? With Brown making himself helpless, should Bieksa have just tooled on him until the officials broke it up?
That’s what Matt Carkner did to Brian Boyle in Game 2 of the Senators/Rangers series. He was suspended for Game 3. Can the Canucks afford to have Bieksa suspended? No, especially with Alex Edler regularly mistaking the puck for a tiddly wink.
But maybe it wouldn’t have been that bad for Bieksa. Maybe he would have just taken the same minor penalty he got anyway. Or maybe he would have been thrown out of the game or been handed a major penalty for roughing. With NHL officials, it’s a coin toss. But what an imbecilic risk it would have been to just wail away. What if Brown had been seriously injured in the course of Bieksa’s revenge? We’ve seen that before.
Nowadays, people act like Todd Bertuzzi meant to break Steve Moore’s neck. He didn’t. He meant to respond to a hit on the captain. It just went sour, a distinct possibility any time you stupidly continue to throw down on a guy who has no interest in stopping you. And yet Canuck fans are upset that Bieksa chose to exercise restraint.
Instead, Bieksa smartly waited until he had Dustin Brown coming down his wing and he took him out with a clean hipcheck, arguably the first well-executed hipcheck Bieksa’s ever thrown. And then, the moment Brown got up and went to the front of the net, Dan Hamhuis crosschecked him and sent him back to the ice.
But this wasn’t enough for some people who, as best as I can gather, learned nothing from the Todd Bertuzzi incident and still think punching an unwilling combatant in the head is preferable.Tags: Bieksa, Canucks, dustin brown, hipchecks, I don't get it, Kings, playoffs, the rhetoric of the response