Two years ago, the Sedins lost their cool during the Canucks’ series against the Chicago Blackhawks and were criticized for their lack of mental discipline, as they uncharacteristically took part in the after-whistle scrums with the likes of David Bolland and Andrew Ladd. The story quickly became that you could distract the Sedins and get them off their game with chippy, physical play.
A year later, the Sedins took the opposite tack in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, accepting any and all punishment in hopes of drawing penalties and taking advantage on the powerplay. This, however, resulted in the Sedins being called soft, particularly when Daniel allowed Brad Marchand to repeatedly punch him in the head after a whistle. The story quickly became that you could intimidate the Sedins and get them off their game with chippy, physical play.
It seemed like they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. If they responded, they were criticized for lacking mental toughness, but if they didn’t, they were criticized for lacking physical toughness.
After Wednesday night’s game four in Los Angeles, it seems like the Sedins are trying to find a happy medium between the two.
Daniel Sedin came back from a concussion and was immediately involved offensively and physically. He showed no fear heading to the high-traffic areas and battled hard. The moment that caught my eye, however, was during a post-whistle scrum when he engaged briefly in a shoving match with Kings forward Colin Fraser, before he popped Fraser in the face with a gloved punch and calmly skated away.
He was sending a pretty clear message: I’m not going to let you push me around. But I’m also not going to get carried away.
Henrik Sedin had the more well-publicized incident, knocking Dustin Brown upside the head with his elbow while the Kings’ captain was kneeling on the ice. I can’t say I’m a fan of elbowing another player in the head, particularly after what just happened to his brother, but I completely understand why he did it. While it was about as innocuous as an elbow can get, it still had a message attached: Next time you try to run me over, this might be waiting for you.
In game three, Brown absolutely freight-trained Henrik with a legal hit and the Kings haven’t been shy about targetting Henrik with their physical play. So when Brown hit the ice after taking a puck to the face (the source of the blood in the video) and Henrik happened to be skating by, he stuck his elbow out.
It was reminiscent of 18 years ago, when another Canucks superstar was being continually targeted by the opposition, only his response was a hell of a lot dirtier. Pavel Bure, during the Canucks’ series against the Dallas Stars in 1994, laid out Shane Churla with what Don Cherry called “the mother of all elbows.” The tone of voice is what gets me: it’s pretty much the only time Cherry spoke of Bure with something akin to respect.
In some circles, Bure was vilified for his vicious elbow, but in others Bure was lauded for taking matters into his own hands and ensuring that the Stars would think twice about targeting him with cheap shots. Because the referee had his eye on the puck, which was far, far away from where Churla was hit, Bure received no penalty on the play. To top it off, he wasn’t suspended, receiving only a $500 fine.
(In charge of suspensions at the time, incidentally? Brian Burke.)
That kind of retribution wouldn’t fly in today’s NHL, but it was fairly commonplace at one point. Heck, Gordie Howe’s elbows are almost as famous as he is, to the point that one of his nicknames is “Mr. Elbows.” He used his elbows to deal with cheap shots and ensure that he was respected on the ice and he wasn’t shy about letting people know about it, saying “If a guy slashed me, I’d grab his stick, pull him up alongside me and elbow him in the head.”
Was Henrik’s elbow anything near Bure’s or one of Howe’s? Of course not, but it seems like it was along the same principle.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Henrik’s elbow on Brown, though I have no issue with he and Daniel asserting themselves in scrums without getting too wrapped up in it. The bigger question is whether it will make a difference in how the Sedins are treated, both on and off the ice. Will the Sedins get more or less attention in post-whistle scrums? What will the media, particularly some of the more old-school commentators, think? Will they laud Henrik for taking matters into his own hands or will they vilify him?
Have the Sedins found a happy medium between responding too much and too little?Tags: Canucks, Daniel, Henrik, Pavel Bure