Canucks beat themselves versus the Kings, which totally counts as a win

Kevin Bieksa fights his past self. In this photo, Kevin Bieksa’s past self is played by Matt Greene.

There are two ways to look at last night’s affair between the LA Kings and the Vancouver Canucks.

On the one hand, it was a hockey game, and since hockey games are decided on the basis of goals scored, I guess you could say the Kings won said game by a score of one to zero.

On the other hand, it was a statement game for the Canucks, and since statement games have a different scoring system — less goals scored than goals achieved — you could say the Canucks won said game by a score of one to zero.

You’d be technically wrong, of course, since moral victories, like shootout wins, have little impact on the NHL standings. (That’s what the ROW column is for — R.O.W. stands for Revenge-Oriented Wins.)

But the notion of a moral victory is a comforting delusion, and it’s serving Vancouver fans well today. I’d go so far as to consider this the rare game where both teams’ supporters are pretty happy with the outcome.

For both the Canucks and their fans, scoring more goals than LA would have been ideal, but the final tally was secondary to flexing a new, tougher identity under John Tortorella by avenging Roberto Luongo, who was injured after being run over by an opportunistic Dustin Brown in the last meeting between these two teams. This was clear from the outset, with Zack Kassian attempting to goad Brown into a tone-setting fight right off the opening puck drop.

Unfortunately, the only tone set was a dial tone, as Brown failed to accept the call, instead suckering Kassian into a tripping penalty nine seconds in by throwing himself to the ground the moment he felt Kassian’s stick between his legs.

For Kings fans instinctively taking umbrage at my reading of that incident: relax. I have no moral objection whatsoever to a successful dive — take advantage of human referees while you can, before the robots take over, I say — and neither does Brown. He’s one of hockey’s worst divers, and by worst, I mean best.

In fact, Brown was at his best all night. Really, by refusing to go with Kassian, he turned what might have been an early sideshow scrap into a game-long pissing contest, thereby keeping the primary goal, the two points, as a secondary goal for the Canucks. For all the talk of moral victories today in Vancouver, there’s an equally convincing argument to be made that Vancouver played something of a distracted and silly game. After all, while they were marching around on their crusade, the Kings stole the two points out from under their nose, and even a day later, no one seems to care.

Brown and the Kings were far more single-minded, and it paid off. He fought in the second period, but he was selective about it. Kassian wasn’t worth his time. Ryan Kesler, on the other hand, was, and that’s just savvy. Kesler is, of course, the Canucks’ most important forward. He plays in every situation, and he’s a difficult matchup for the opposition’s most important player — in this case, Anze Kopitar. Brown knows it, too, so this tradeoff was, in his mind, a rook for a queen. You take that swap.

Then later, he scored the game-winning goal. Kesler got a few good licks in on Brown, sure, but in the end, Brown got the third lick, and with it, the tootsie roll centre.

Still, Vancouver fans are pleased because Monday night marked a new identity for them. Back in 2010-11, the Canucks adopted something of a zen mentality. Rather than making the opposition pay for liberties taken in the moment, they did their damage on the powerplay, and it served them well for much of the year. But when it stopped working against Boston for a number of reasons, fans soured on the approach, and they’ve been sour ever since.

Hence, watching last night’s Canucks was a pleasant change for most. Why, the Canucks were so determined to push back physically as opposed to on the powerplay that they tanked the powerplay intentionally, using Daniel Sedin and Yannick Weber as point men while keeping Alex Edler and Jason Garrison (a.k.a. actual freaking point men), on the bench. Why the Hell not? Who needs point men, I say, when you’re not after points?

Like the season premiere of the fifth season of Archer (which also aired last night, as it happens), we weren’t watching a normal episode last night. That was a full series reboot. The Alain Vigneault era is officially over. Welcome your new Canucks, a group that responds physically and sucks eggs on the powerplay. The script has been flipped.

Ironically, they were effectively beaten last night by a team playing the way they used to. Jordan Nolan turtling on Tom Sestito to draw the extra powerplay minutes? Dustin Brown embellishing to do the same, and picking his spots? The whole team playing focused while their opponents tried to settle scores? Tell me this wasn’t a little familiar.

But I don’t think anybody cares about the irony of losing to our past selves, because Monday night was about saying goodbye to them. This is the team Canucks fans have been after since the summer of 2011, and for better or for worse, we have it now.

27 comments

  1. RG
    January 14, 2014

    It’s about time the team adopted a new identity.

    Just have the Sedins throwing elbows like Bure on Churla and we’d roll right through Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim, LA and San Jose.

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    • Interiorfan
      January 15, 2014

      Bure knocking out Churla is my all time favorite memory of Bure. He had all scoring talent in the world but nobody got the better of him in the corners. If they did, he always got even. That playoff run was also a great time to be a Canucks fan…..

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  2. Cory M
    January 14, 2014

    Mooney – this is delusional…

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    • Harrison Mooney
      January 14, 2014

      In what sense?

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      Rating: +3 (from 7 votes)
  3. Atnhony
    January 14, 2014

    I dunno if we proved anything to ourselves since we still got beat, and the guy we’re hating beat us. It’s not like they cowered, so ok we came out with feeling, but it still wasn’t enough.

    How long are the memories? Are they going to be this tough going forward or just for the kings? Just this time?

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  4. Amor de Cosmos
    January 14, 2014

    The last time we played a “statement game” was in Boston two years ago. Very fine it was too, we even scored more goals than they did. The trouble is the statement had the durability of yesterday’s fish wrap. You could even argue that our play declined from that point and hasn’t recovered since. I think a bit more time is needed before too many conclusions are drawn from yesterday evening, as vicariously satisfying as it might have felt at the time.

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    • Bob's your uncle?
      January 14, 2014

      Hola Cosmos’ love,

      I have to agree that the Canucks’ play hasn’t been as good since the Stanley cup run. That year we really were the best of the best. Awesome in every category, real stats, advanced stats, everything. I agree that we played a great “statement” game against Boston the following year but that whole year just wasn’t that good. Yes, we won the President’s trophy but there were many underlying issues and we rarely won in the same convincing fashion of the previous year. I’m not sure what we lost when we lost game 7 but I’ve been idly trying to figure it out. Here’s my three best theories. 1. Totally different bottom six. Maybe guys like Torres and a fully healthy Malhotra being just a little bit better than the third and fourth liners on the other team was really fundamental to out success. 2. Christian Ehrhoff. Man, you gotta wonder how much better he would’ve performed in the finals if he’d been healthy. That said, I didn’t think losing him was a big deal at the time, maybe it was. 3. Different locker room environment. There does seem to be some a strange positive or negative effect created by certain mixes of players. Maybe we had a great locker room environment that year that has suffered due to the exit of many personalities or an influx of new personalities. I’d say I’m 95% sure its one of those things but it doesn’t matter, that stuff is years ago! What we need to do is keeping playing with attitude and fix the power play, that was ridiculous in LA. Just put a rocket on each point, the Canucks have three option in Garrison, Edler and Weber right now. Kesler in front of the Goal and let the Sedins do their thing. Its not rocket science. If we do that I think we’ll be fine in the short term. In the long term, I don’t know, our conference is pretty brutal. I won’t be surprised if we get knocked out in the first round

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  5. Lyg
    January 14, 2014

    This was an interesting reading of what happened before, during, and since the game last night. And in the end, I tend to agree with you, Harrison. I’m just not sure *this* Canuck fan has been wanting last night’s team. I still miss the 2009/10/11 Canucks, even for all their lack of a Stanley Cup.

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  6. ikillchicken
    January 14, 2014

    Yeah, sure, if we had come out and gotten destroyed 6-0 and given up 40+ shots again, I’d be right there with you calling any talk of moral victory BS, no matter how many guys we roughed up. But that’s not what happened at all. You seem to be implying that by focusing on the game and shying away from the rough stuff the Kings were able to to win. But while both those things are true, there’s absolutely no causal relationship between them. They never scored on the PP. Nor did they look like the better actual, gooning aside, hockey team. They won 1-0 in a game were we outplayed, outhit and outworked them all over the rink. By all rights, they were damn lucky to steal those two points. And 9 times out of 10 it would be the other way around. So yeah, I call that a moral victory. Long term, it’s far more important that we develop this kind of identity. Whether we happened to pick up the win on one given night isn’t that important in the grand scheme.

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    • shoes
      January 15, 2014

      That was a good post “Ikillchicken” . The fact is….if those 2 points are what keep the team out of a successful playoff run then it would be criminal because in spite of the 15 minutes of extra PP time the Kings got the Canucks were above them in most categories. Most inspiring to me were the “type of hits” the Canucks pulled off on the outraged Kings. When Dustin Brown was signed long term, Lombardi said and I quote “part of the reason is his ability to draw penalties” He is a diver and a successful one. Referee Smelly Kutherland claimed that “we are sometimes influenced by purty lips” Who knows, but the fact remains the entire league, including the Kings themselves and their management, now looks at themselves (the Kings) in a whole new light.

      One other major factor in the Canucks playing this type of game is that when they played the type of game the Kings played they did NOT draw the penalties. Everybody remembers when Marchand punched Sedin in the 2011 playoffs. It was the same as Sestito on Nolan in action and instead of 7 minutes of PP time there was 0 minutes of PP time for a net difference of 7 minutes.

      As a result it was past time for a change of style, because if the Canucks do become a goon squad, Colin will immediately change the NHL rules back to what they really are and it will be simple for the Canucks to adjust backwards and become skilled again. This will serve to confuse the already confused refs, but it should work out for the Canucks.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        January 15, 2014

        Shoes, you seriously have to let the Marchand incident go, because you’re remembering it wrong. The Canucks did get a two-minute power play. It wasn’t a 7-minute power play because Marchand didn’t drop the gloves and take full swings at Daniel, instead giving him a series of gloved rabbit punches. As much as people remember the Marchand incident as some grand injustice, the referees got the call right on Marchand.

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        • dontpassjustshoot
          January 15, 2014

          So… are gloved punches OK? I thought you’re supposed to take gloves off when punching. Actually, Daniel, fights can involve full swinging for sure, but equally, then can involve each guy taking hold of the other guy’s sweater and rabbit punching, thus killing two birds with one stone (keeping a beautiful balance with your dance partner, and hurting him.) Saying it isn’t a fight because it isn’t a full swing doesn’t make sense to me.

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          • dontpassjustshoot
            January 15, 2014

            Basically, I’m saying if a quick succession of deliberate blows to the head does not count as a one-sided fight, the word “fight” needs redefining.

            The gloves being on just makes it worse, not better, and calling them “rabbit” punches suggests that they’re kind of sissy punches, soft and gentle. Seriously, some people think you need a visually impressive full wind-up to make punches be “real” punches. This isn’t true. Just look up Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch. (Wait, did I just indirectly compare Marchand to the legendary Bruce Lee? God, I’m making it worse.)

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  7. Jevon
    January 14, 2014

    spot on Mooney. You have to score to win games, and despite their new “tough” attitude, the old problem remains. That was playoff intensity and a playoff preview we watched last night and the problem that lost them the cup against the Bruins and what lost them the last two series against the Sharks and Kings was plain as day on the ice in the City of Angels; the Canucks have a scoring problem and an inferiority complex. That is their new “identity,” and that is the same hurdle they are going to have to overcome in order to return to the success of 2011.

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  8. Robin labossiere
    January 14, 2014

    A career top 6 forward was sacrificed to acquire a player who was going to stand up to those nasty Bruins and Dave Browns. Last night that player- Kassian- received two 10 minute misconducts plus other penalties and was a nightmare in the Canuck end of the ice. A trade that will rank with the Cam Neely trade as one of the dumbest moves made by a GM. Fire Gillis!

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    • Bulliumchefhat
      January 15, 2014

      We did lose a top six forward. Hodgson has top 6 mins in Buffalo, he gets top six PP mins, and key offensive zone face offs and you know what? He has as many GOALS as Kassian, who has fluctuating minutes.

      This Hodgson. Vs. Kassian argument is ridiculous.

      Here’s a reference key for you.

      Facts= good
      your opinion=simple and reactionary.

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  9. that's entertainment
    January 14, 2014

    Harrison, first off the Canucks pp has been sucking wind for two full seasons, and second…

    That was without a doubt the most entertaining one nill loss I have seen the Canucks play. Certainly in the regular season (35 years of watching this team).
    Personally, I think if they continue to play with that kind of “truculence” (yes I used the word) they will get the goals when they really need them. And no the two points were not important last night… As long as we make the playoffs! ;-)

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    • dontpassjustshoot
      January 15, 2014

      Do carry on with using “truculence”. Whenever Torts says they want to play with “stiffness”, I giggle. Immature? Definitely. (hee hee)

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  10. CoLa
    January 14, 2014

    I am perfectly okay with the Canucks sacrificing two points to make a statement. They will almost certainly make the playoffs and thus, several points mean little. What’s far more important is that they make the following statement:

    If you attempt to injure the top Canucks (Luongo, Sedin):
    - You’ll have to answer to Sestito and co., whether you like it or not.
    - Weise and co. will attempt to injure your top players (eg. Doughty).

    In the playoffs, avoiding injuries to your top players and injuring the other team’s top players is one of the keys to success. The Canucks need to show they have the toughness and the penalty killing prowess to do both.

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  11. Iceman
    January 14, 2014

    As much as I enjoyed the game (minus the end result) and the physical response by Canucks, I’m not fully convinced the team suddenly donned a “whole new identity” overnight. To me it looked more of an emotionally charged pushback in response to the Kings’ dirty antics. I guess we’ll see whether or not the “charge” is more than just a one-timer over the next couple of games.

    Honestly though, as of now we have no choice other than slapping back when the other team is trying to slap us around. With such a dismal PP % there is nothing that deters goon-squads like LA from taking liberties with our skill players. They know we can’t buy a goal with a man advantage, so they have nothing to lose other than one of their rats like Brown or Nolan for two minutes. And if they get lucky while keep trying to run over our key players we may lose some of them to an injury (as it happened already), so what’s there not to like? That LA’s head rat trainer Sutter certainly doesn’t seem to mind.

    it’s 2014, and we no longer have the 2011 team who punched the other teams’ lights out with their power play prowess. Maybe this should be Canucks’ new motto: If slapped don’t turn the other cheek: slap them back and slap them again on the other cheek HARDER :-) .

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  12. Kyle Good
    January 14, 2014

    I can’t speak for all Canuck fans but I was tired of seeing no push back and turning the other cheek. If someone is punching you in the face (especially a rat) f’n defend yourself. If you can’t support that and also get pumped by killing all those penalties, as well as still managing to outshoot LA, then what the hell. I definitely wanted a win last night but I agree with the players – that was as good as a loss can be. Good things ahead since I believe that was a team building event.

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  13. whiskey
    January 14, 2014

    Lets not lose sight of the purpose of the game. Just win baby. In the end we lost the game. HOWEVER, you give me this team competing at this level consistently and ill wager we will find a way to win more 7 game playoff series than the post 2011 team. This team will put butts back in the seats and get the opposition adjusting their game to match ours instead of vice versa. Ultimately, i think this was our downfall in 2011. Playing this sandpaper game will give the top two lines more space on the ice, and thats all they need.

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  14. shoes
    January 15, 2014

    I wonder if any Kings would even be alive today if the refs had not seen fit to make sure our “tough guys” were either gone or off the ice for large stretches and their “tough guys” were given the “powder puff” treatment.

    I know one thing….the Kings won the game and their dressing room was ashamed. the Canucks lost the game and their dressing room was jubilant. Young guys know what makes a man or not and the Kings at the age of 20 something will need those little blue pills or a month or two to have any fun at all. :D

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  15. shoes
    January 15, 2014

    I wonder if any Kings would even be alive today if the refs had not seen fit to make sure our “tough guys” were either gone or off the ice for large stretches and their “tough guys” were given the “powder puff” treatment.

    I know one thing….the Kings won the game and their dressing room was ashamed. the Canucks lost the game and their dressing room was jubilant. Young guys know what makes a man or not and the Kings at the age of 20 something will need those little blue pills or a month or two to have any fun at all. :D

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  16. mb13
    January 15, 2014

    Wow… the canucks play one “tough” game and they have a new identity, have turned a corner or are now a Torts team instead of an AV team.

    Maybe if they won the game… or maybe if they hadnt had one such game vs the bruins only to see them fizzle the rest of the season… I have seen this movie before… why do some people think the ending will be different?

    You know when I will consider the canucks tough? When Kesler punches Chara and doesnt run for his life immediately. Or when one of them get their ass kicked for the good of the team. Until then, they are pretenders who dont know what sacrifice is.

    If they have so much character, why didnt they deal with brown right away when he hurt luongo? They needed 10 days to build up courage?

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  17. Anthony
    January 15, 2014

    I just wanted to note that in my mind, toughness is not about throwing punches/fighting what have you. Yes I love a good fight, especially Iginla/Kesler type fights.

    But the kind of toughness we need are Trevor Linden body checking a guy through the glass type of toughness. Lets beat teams that way rather than how many fights we can get into.

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  18. dontpassjustshoot
    January 15, 2014

    So, can you guys do a post about the instigator rule? Now that a Canuck is involved, the Canuck bloggers can maybe clear it up. So when Ray “Defend Yourself” Emery skated the length of the ice to… whatever, to “get” the other goalie, everyone said the instigator rule said that he could only be punished after he had done it a few more times to different guys, or something. Can you tell us how Sestito’s case works up differently?

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