Can the Sedins find a happy medium in their response to physical play?

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?

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30 comments

  1. J21
    April 19, 2012

    “Responce”? :S

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    • JohnScott
      April 19, 2012

      Like beyonce but responce

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      • Harrison Mooney
        April 19, 2012

        Ha. That’s a writing-in-the-middle-of-the-night error right there.

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  2. J21
    April 19, 2012

    But seriously, I think we all know the answer to this question: “Will they laud Henrik for taking matters into his own hands or will they vilify him?”

    They will vilify him, because he is (1) European, and (2) a Vancouver Canuck. Even though he did nothing that could actually hurt a guy. These are the same people who are able to see the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins as courageous superheroes for the crap they pull, after all. It has nothing to do with objective assessment. Henrik will be labelled a “cheapshot artist” even though that’s the first one of his career, and is extremely tame.

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  3. SteveB
    April 19, 2012

    off-topic, but is the PITB site getting hammered with hits?
    It seems laggier than Phil Kessel on a backcheck. :-\

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    • Harrison Mooney
      April 19, 2012

      It is brutally slow right now. Not sure what the deal is. We’ve had busier days with no issue.

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      • SteveB
        April 19, 2012

        Service Temporarily Unavailable

        The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.
        Apache Server at vansunsportsblogs.com Port 80

        I’ve got a bunch of those error messages this morning.
        I blame Gary Bettman.

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  4. Tom
    April 19, 2012

    this is off topic, but I just read Iain MacIntyres`s article about the goalies and his call and jeff patterson`s call that Luongo is `gone` after this post season. thoughts?

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    • peanutflower
      April 19, 2012

      Here’s my thought, the Vancouver MSM absolutely sucks. They suck. It’s embarrassing. Why would Luongo want to stay here? Why would Schneider want to stay here? What if the bonehead bandwagoner fans and the completely idiotic tabloid Vancouver media chase both of them out of town? Honestly, would you want to play here? The Sedins are probably counting down the days to go back to Sweden where they’re national heroes and no one denigrates them. Seriously. It’s completely pathetic.

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    • dougster
      April 19, 2012

      I would not be so fast to write off Luongo. I would not be surprised to see him play again in this playoff run if we can accomplish the “reverse sweep” and get past the pesky Kings. Think about a matchup with Nashville and how well he has played against them… and even in the Kings series Luongo is just a couple of cramps away from playing. I think McIntyre is way too premature in his call and should know better. “There’s many a slip, twixt cup and lip” applies equally to the King’s chances of winning after being up 3-0 and to Luongo’s future.

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    • Rituro
      April 19, 2012

      Don’t believe the hype. The only way “gone” happens is if it translates to “boatload of picks and ready-for-top-6 players”. That goes for both Lu and Schneids. GMMG has already made it plain as day that there are no discounts for either.

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  5. Chicky
    April 19, 2012

    Sadly, everyone out there, fans from other teams and media alike will roast Hank over an open pit fire. Why? Because he plays for the Canucks. The twins, much like the team in general, is in a “Damned if they do, Damned if they don’t” situation no matter what happens.

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  6. Cody
    April 19, 2012

    There are many cities that have the same issue. We can only hope the players can see past the major media outlets, and realize that the regular fan supports them. Lou has been with this team through the best period in franchise history. This is not a coincidence, but a result. He was a player who a team could be built around and is a damn fine goaltender. The Sedins are two players who can dominate a game of professionals and at times make star defences look silly. We can’t control what others say, but we can control ourselves. Don’t get caught up in the “burn it down” attitude and let this team know you appreciate them whenever you can !

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  7. hockeyispretty
    April 19, 2012

    The CBC was doing their best to whip up outrage, but I think when they didn’t have another go at him during coast-to-coast at 2nd intermission, that was like their way of saying “oh, we messed up; that was actually not at all excessive force and other players have done worse things during this very game.” Without saying anything at all, naturally.

    Personally, I think it was fine. When the guy said he didn’t know whether it was one of his own teammates or an opponent, that’s pretty much saying it all.

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  8. bearspaw
    April 19, 2012

    Seriously, it’s comments like Hughson’s that make haters believe it was Henrik that caused the blood. No “on further review” he took a puck to the face. Yes, it’s a damned if they do and damned if they don’t situation. Go Canucks Go!!

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    • Russburger
      April 19, 2012

      I think that was Craig Simpson, not Hughson (who is generally a Canuck supporter, based on history). As pointed out recently on PITB, Simpson is mostly wrong about almost everything, as he was in this case. The apparent need to fill the airwaves with nonstop drivel, seemingly without taking a breath, leads him to talk absolute garbage much of the time.

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      • bearspaw
        April 19, 2012

        my bad, it was Simpson and he and the rest of the CBC panel sound like they can’t wait for the Canucks to fail. And as much as I like Hughson he seems to be going down the negative road too. So many people are like a flock of sheep just following the leader! Can’t wait for Sundays game.

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  9. peanutflower
    April 19, 2012

    Apologies for how the youtube video takes up the whole page, but this is a good one:

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    • dougster
      April 19, 2012

      I want the T-shirt… this is great! :)

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    • hockeyispretty
      April 19, 2012

      THAT IS HILARIOUS.

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    • the real bob
      April 19, 2012

      he put brown in his place

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  10. Snepsts
    April 19, 2012

    Daniel swatted him, at most, on the way by, one game after Brown levels his brother with a very, very hard hit. A hit that did not have to be that hard. (Henrik then went on to play the longest shift of the playoffs.) Daniel and Henrik are simply playing playoff hockey: damn the torpedoes (i.e. the media and their lame critics). Plus it only looked bad from the one angle, and Brown dove like a porpoise. Then Craig Simpson proceeds to snuffle and wring his handkerchief for a couple minutes, despite the replay which shows it is barely incidental contact. Plus, as an unapologetic fan, even if it were an elbow, I have no problem seeing Dustin Brown’s head on the Sedins’ mantle. And yes, in my world they live in the same house.

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    • Snepsts
      April 19, 2012

      Oops, never mind, I thought it was Daniel, not Henrik who popped Brown. How did I miss that after umpteen replays and this entire article…?

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  11. Jyrki Lumme
    April 19, 2012

    I watched this clip about 50 times now and I still can’t actually see Hank’s elbow actually make contact with Brown. Also, I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned how Brown seemed to dramatically embellish this supposed contact too, as he throws his head back and turtles to the ice after being barely touched. From what I can see, the very edge of the back of Hank’s glove may have slightly grazed Brown as he skated by him. Almost like he wasn’t really meaning to do anything and then, at the last minute, he saw Brown down on the ice and thought “hey you’re that D-bag who freight-trained me last game – take that”, but by then he’d skated by him and consequently he missed.

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    • hockeyispretty
      April 19, 2012

      THANK YOU! PITB, you guys do keep calling it an elbow, CBC callis it an elbow, everyone calls it an elbow… I can’t find the point where Hank’s elbow is touching the guy’s head and the guy’s head is going back in response.

      I only see contact being made with the backhand smack.

      Can you show where the elbow is hitting, PITB? Because I kind of think we’re all just gravely repeating CBC’s comment about elbowing here. (Of course, I definitely miss a lot when watching hockey, which is why I need you).

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      • Daniel Wagner
        April 19, 2012

        He got him with the elbow just before the backhand swing. It’s not a lot of contact, but he definitely gets him.

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    • hockeyispretty
      April 19, 2012

      Jyrkie Lumme, other teams don’t embellish. Only the Canucks do that. Only it’s called “diving”, not embellishment, even when you stay on your feet, shake it off, and carry on skating.

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    • mac n cheese
      April 19, 2012

      From the first we saw this, we felt it was a back-handed swat to Brown’s face, not an elbow.

      A very gentle, gentlemanly old-time glove swat. If he had the time, I think Henrik would have removed his glove to do it properly.

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  12. Mt
    April 19, 2012

    Had that been a solid elbow to the head, I’d be unhappy with the move. It wasn’t, he even reaches back to try to give him a face swat which you don’t do following a driving elbow. I’m pretty sure I’d say the same had the jerseys been reversed. Though I’ll admit that I give the benefit of the doubt to both Sedin’s. These are players who truly show respect for their opponents. Had Carcillo, Cooke, or Marchant done it, I presume a different intent.

    As for the media, there is little the twins can do but win. A player is lauded or lambasted for the exact same action depending if it is part of winning or losing, as if that act was the cause. Had the canucks won game 7, Daniel would have been praised for not hitting Marchant back (although he didn’t draw any penalty–I think he got the same as Marchand on the play) and would still be held up as the paragon of restraint. If the canucks win a cup, their way will quickly become the oh-so-loudly-proclaimed right way. Silly media, reductive narratives are for kids.

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  13. Connor
    April 20, 2012

    I don’t mind Jim Hughson that much, but boy does Craig Simpson get on my nerves. I would take Kevin Weekes over him, Simpson is such a negative Nancy about everything. There is never any positivity from him, no matter the team. To him, it is not how well one team is playing, its how bad the other is. Drives me insane watching it (except on Maple Leaf Broadcasts).

    Weekes on the other hand is a bit of a doofus, but you have got to like his energy and pzazz.

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