The big story heading into this game is how the Canucks would respond in their first game against the Los Angeles Kings since Dustin Brown injured Roberto Luongo. I wondered, personally, if the fans were out for more blood than the Canucks themselves, that, perhaps, the Canucks would be more focussed on winning the game (and passing the Kings in the Pacific Division standings), than exacting retribution.
Not so much.
It was clear right from puck drop that this game was about sending a message and establishing an identity as a team that stands up for their teammates, won’t be bullied by physical play, and is difficult to play against. Not a single guff was taken in this game; all guffs remained the possession of their original owners.
Really, it was hardly a hockey game at all. It was an absurd spectacle and a thoroughly entertaining one. I thoroughly enjoyed it when I watched this “game”.
Canucks 0 – 1 Kings
- At first, it looked like Plan Make-Dustin-Brown-Say-He’s-Very-Very-Sorry was going to immediately go sour, as Zack Kassian’s attempts to goad Brown into a fight off puck drop failed utterly and ended with Kassian taking a penalty instead. It looked like the Canucks’ ability to get back at Brown was about as good as their ability to name plans.
- Things went even further off the rails after Kassian’s penalty ended. Jordan Nolan took an unhealthy run at Henrik Sedin, narrowly missing the Canucks captain with what likely would have been called a charge if he made more contact. Tom Sestito didn’t take kindly to Nolan targeting Henrik and dropped the gloves at him off a later faceoff. Normally you drop the gloves with someone, but Nolan decided to keep his on, using them mainly to protect his face, as Sestito didn’t stop punching when Nolan didn’t start.
- In jumping Nolan, Sestito also jumped directly into the hearts of Canucks fans, who appreciated the enforcer standing up for the elder Sedin. He also jumped straight out of the game, as he received a whopping 27 minutes in penalties: a 2 minute instigator, 5 minutes for fighting, a 10 minute misconduct for instigating, and a game misconduct, which carries 10 more penalty minutes. He wasn’t credited with a single second of ice time according to the official event summary, which means his penalty minute per actual minute ratio in this game was a divide by zero error.
- Sestito’s naughtiness gave the Kings a 7-minute power play, but the Canucks made the Kings power play look less dangerous than a tired baby sloth. Even when Henrik took a hooking penalty, giving the Kings a 48-second 5-on-3, the Kings couldn’t mount much of an attack. The Kings spent over half the first period on the power play, but were out-shot 8-to-7.
- After all the early feistiness, the referees tried to clamp down and get the game under control. Hilariously, they did this by handing Zack Kassian and Willie Mitchell 10-minute misconducts for basically just looking at each other funny. To be fair, since it was Kassian, it was a really funny look.
- The Canucks did finally take Dustin Brown to task, as it were, when Ryan Kesler ditched his mitts, jerseyed Brown, and fed him a steady diet of uppercuts. Look, I’m a pacifist, but that was still mightily satisfying. At the same time, Brown is a cagey guy. He avoided fighting Kassian to start the game, was reportedly hassled by the Canucks throughout the first period, but didn’t actually fight until he could take Kesler, the Canucks’ leading goalscorer and best defensive forward, off the ice with him.
- Kevin Bieksa took a cross-checking penalty early in the second period and, after the Canucks (of course) killed it off, Bieksa stayed on the ice as the Canucks moved the puck up ice and set up in front of Jonathan Quick. Bieksa battled hard in front with both Quick and defenceman Matt Greene, elbowing Quick in the head after a couple punches from the goaltender, then fighting Greene. When Greene chucked Bieksa to the ice, Bieksa kept punching from his back, which Henrik evidently found hilarious.
- Most hockey players drop their gloves when they go to fight. Not Bieksa, who is a noted glove-throwing aficionado. Prior to chucking knuckles, he chucked his glove:
Stick-tap to Wyatt Arndt for the gif.
- Bieksa’s ornery performance as a net-front presence apparently made an impression with Tortorella, which is the only explanation for Bieksa being added to the first unit power play, not to be one of the defencemen on the point, but to screen Quick. They stuck with that formation from that point forward, which made no sense whatsoever, as he’s not a forward and the power play didn’t help the Canucks earn a point.
- What made things worse is that the other defenceman on the first power play unit was Yannick Weber. Jason Garrison, who just topped 105 mph during the Canucks SuperSkills, and Alex Edler, returning to the lineup from injury, were both left on the second unit, even when the Canucks were down by one late and got a power play with six minutes remaining. You want a reason why the Canucks won the battle, but lost the game, look to the decision-making on power play personnel.
- Edler’s return to the lineup was definitely noticeable, however, as he made his presence felt physically, finishing with a game-high 6 hits in just short of 22 minutes of ice time. Edler had a quietly effective game, which is encouraging after missing so many games, and his willingness to throw his body around indicates that he’s back to full health. He must have visited a fairy pond to fill all of his hearts while he was on the injured reserve list. Maybe that’s why he’s not on the power play, as Tortorella doesn’t want him to injure any of his teammates with his sword beam.
- With all the shenanigans going on in this game, Dale Weise seemed to feel left out, so he decided his best course of action would be to slew foot Drew Doughty. Out of all the acts of violence in this game, Weise’s slew foot drew the most vitriole. Ironically, it didn’t draw a penalty call. Meanwhile, Kassian got a second 10-minute misconduct, because the refs apparently don’t understand that that’s just his face.
- Honestly, the refs didn’t have the best game. In the third period, Paul Devorski initially indicated a good goal when the puck was blatantly tipped in with the highest of sticks. Their most hilarious error, however, came in the second, when Daniel held Doughty and Henrik got called for the penalty. Henrik dutifully took the punishment, as he likely did so many times when they were growing up. Meanwhile, Daniel ended up on the ice, killing his own penalty, and blocked a shot that left him limping, because the hockey gods don’t believe in penal substitutionary atonement.
- While the Canucks’ power play was basically useless (having Daniel and Weber on the points when you’ve got Edler and Garrison waiting in the wings is simply inexcusable), the penalty kill was incredible. The Canucks spent nearly 15 minutes, about a quarter of the game, shorthanded and allowed just 8 shots against, and fired 3 of their own. It was the best shorthanded performance since Dustin Hoffman in Hook.
- The Canucks outplayed the Kings in all facets of the game, except for the facet that involves putting the puck in the net. The Canucks weren’t entirely focussed on creating scoring chances and couldn’t capitalize on the chances they did create. On the defensive end, they held the Kings to just 20 shots, but one of those came on a 3-on-1, after Dan Hamhuis failed to hold the puck in the Kings’ zone. Mike Santorelli broke up the initial scoring chance, but the puck bounced to Dustin Brown, who shovelled it past Eddie Lack, because the hockey gods love a rat.
- But this game wasn’t about the two points for the Canucks, as was immediately evident from the attitude in the locker room post-game. It was about establishing an identity as a team that won’t, in the words of Miley Cyrus, take nothing from nobody. Best evidence of that: Daniel Sedin, of all people, throwing an open-ice hip check to break up a rush in the third period.
, I Watched This Game