I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Boston Bruins, December 14, 2013

Like Jenny Shepard and Agent Gibbs, the Canucks and Bruins have history together, so it’s really odd that no one made any mention of it leading up to or during the game. There wasn’t a single reference to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final from CBC’s broadcast, fans on Twitter, or players in the game.

Instead, it was treated like a normal, ordinary game. While it may have lacked drama, emotion, and anything resembling entertainment value, the Canucks were just happy to get the two points with the modest victory.

I became a horrible liar after I watched this game.

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Remember your hatred for the Bruins in this awesome, one-minute video

The Edmonton Oilers are in Vancouver Friday night, and I think it’s safe to say that nobody cares. The Canucks aren’t even hiding how completely and thoroughly they’re looking past this game to the next one. The game starts at 6pm. I can only assume it’s because the team just wants to be finished an hour earlier than usual.

This weekend is all about the Boston Bruins, who, thanks to a dumb NHL schedule and then an even dumber NHL lockout, are only just now returning to Vancouver for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup.

Now, it’s possible that you don’t feel the hatred for these Bruins that you once did. After all, it’s been two and a half years, and there have been moments of catharsis in those 30 months — the Canucks went into Boston and got a small measure of revenge back in January of 2012, and we got to watch the Bruins lose a Stanley Cup Final just this past spring. Sure, we had to watch the Blackhawks win it in the process, but, you know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

And anyway, it’s pretty easy to recover that hatred. I’ll bet that this great, short video by Tanbir Rana, one of our favourite Youtubers, brings it all right back.

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It would appear the NHL selected its All-Star captains with the Canucks in mind

Those of you that follow that other blog I write for already know my opinions when it comes to naming the captains for the NHL All-Star Game, but here’s a quick summary for the rest: the game is meaningless. The only thing that matters to players is being named to it. That in mind, rather than letting fans vote players into the game, which is far less of an honour than being selected by the league, let fans vote for the team captains.

This is my vision for the future. Unfortunately, the league doesn’t share it, and the captains have once again been hand-picked by the suits. They are: Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins.

Since this is a Canucks blog, you probably want to know what this means for Vancouver’s All-Star game representatives, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Alex Edler. The short answer: nothing, since the game means nothing.

That said, with the two personalities involved, we may have enough information to project that all three Canucks will wind up on the same team.

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People You May Know: PITB chats with Raffi about the Canucks, one-sided viewing, and fighting in hockey

You probably know Raffi (Cavoukian, not Torres) from the albums you listened to as a child. The troubadour is behind some of the greatest children’s songs of all time, such as “Baby Beluga”, “Bananaphone”, and “Down by the Bay.”

Raffi is also the founder of The Centre for Child Honouring, a non-profit organization “Working for a better world for kids, a more peaceful society, and a planet that’s restored.” According to Raffi, “It’s for a good life [and] a world fit for children, so we can benefit the whole of society.”

Just recently, Raffi ventured into the world of hockey. He was the man behind the #MuteDonCherry tweet-up, a drive to quietly protest the CBC personality’s brash approach and propaganda by simply muting him. “Cherry is a pro-fight proponent of hockey violence,” Raffi said. “That’s indefensible. It sets a terrible example for kids. It stains a game of skill with brute intimidation.” The Twitter movement led to Raffi’s first two appearances on sports talk radio.

Raffi has been pointed, direct and convincing about the sport’s need to rid fighting from the game altogether. A hockey fan since the age of 10 when his family emigrated from Cairo, Egpyt to Toronto and his father served the family pie on Saturday nights when the Leafs scored, Raffi loves the game. He simply feels fighting has no place in it.

Raffi has been a Canucks fan since he moved from Toronto to Vancouver in 1990 and “caught the bug,” as he says. His current favourite players are “the whole team.” Since PITB makes a habit of chatting with Canuck fans of note, we decided to do exactly that, speaking with Raffi about the home team, subjectivity in the hockey media, and what fighting in the game teaches our kids.

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Turns out we owe Dale Weise an apology

I didn’t take offense to much the Canucks did in last Saturday’s tilt with the Boston Bruins. Sure, they went after Shawn Thornton with gusto, but to hear Boston fans tell it, Shawn Thornton fought Mothra in the 1960s and the Canucks are all fairies, so he should have been just fine. And heck, for a guy who was stabbed in the throat with a track javelin, he sure gave it to Tony Gallagher pretty good on Sticks and Stones, huh?

That said, on Monday, I made it clear that I didn’t like Dale Weise’s seeming flip-flop on the non-fight with Shawn Thornton later in the first period. It looked, to me, like he gave every indication that he wanted to fight, then, when the puck dropped and Thornton’s gloves did the same, he changed his mind. I was wrong.

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15 things Canucks and Bruins fans can agree on

You may have noticed over the last few days that fans of the Boston Bruins and fans of the Vancouver Canucks disagree on a lot of things, such as the anatomical location of knees. All this animosity was briefly entertaining, but it has quickly grown tiresome instead as fans on both sides seem to have forgotten basic human decency, such as viewing fans of other teams as human.

That’s why I think it’s time to find some common ground. I’m guessing that Canucks and Bruins fans, being fellow members of the human race, actually have a lot more in common than either group thinks.

Here are 15 things that both Canucks fans and Bruins fans can agree on:

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PITB is famous: members of Boston media rip us without realizing we’re ripping them

On Monday, to our great amusement, members of the Boston media stumbled across the I Watched This Game recap of the Bruins/Canucks game and, unfamiliar with the way we do things, made the mistake of taking the writing completely seriously. The result was hilarious, as both a Boston sportswriter and two Boston sports radio hosts ripped us for points that, clearly, they did not get.

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Brad Marchand gets five games for hit on Salo; ‘Predatory’, according to Shanahan

Despite taking their sweet time and backing the announcement right up to Canucks’ game time, the department of player safety has finally issued a verdict regarding Brad Marchand’s low bridge on Sami Salo from Saturday’s match between the Canucks and Bruins. Canuck fans will probably like how it all shook out: the Bruins’ pest has been suspended a whopping five games for the hit, the maximum amount he could be given without flying to New York for an in-person hearing.

Why so many games? As usual with Shanahan, Marchand’s repeat offender status plays into the decision, as does the fact that Salo suffered a concussion on the play. But those are secondary factors. The primary one, simply put, is that Brendan Shanahan and company saw the incident as “predatory”.

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Bruins’ Brad Marchand’s claim that he was just protecting himself is nonsense

It was interesting to hear Brad Marchand speak to Boston Bruins TV about his low-bridge on Sami Salo from the second period of Saturday’s matinee game between the Bruins and the Canucks. Granted, I wasn’t expecting him to admit to any wrongdoing, but I was amused when he painted the incident as little more than a reaction play. In his own words:

“I was kind of looking over my shoulder and saw Salo coming in and I just kind of went down. You look up and see a guy that’s 6’4″, 6’5″ coming in on you and your instincts are to protect yourself. It’s very unfortunate that he was hurt on the play.”

Salo was indeed hurt, by the way. If it wasn’t clear from the sudden, alarmingly out-of-character bout of stick-throwing rage from the demure Fin, he wasn’t quite himself, having suffered a concussion on the play. This was confirmed Sunday morning when he woke up with a headache.

Was Salo’s brain trauma, as Marchand indicated, just the result of a hockey play gone wrong? Was he merely a Suntot trying to protect himself from an oncoming Smoggie, a hobbit afeared of Orc aggression? No. That’s a blatant falsehood, especially if you watch what led up to the play.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Boston Bruins, January 7, 2012

Well. That was fun. Despite claims by both teams to the contrary, Saturday morning’s tilt between the Canucks and the Bruins obviously had a little more riding on it than simply two points. The “This is just one regular-season game” talk was relevant for about four minutes. After that, it was anarchy. Seriously, at one point, someone blew open a wall in Arkham Asylum.

There were two major differences between this game and the ones we saw last June, and the first two involved special teams: the Canucks scored on their powerplays, and Cody Hodgson spearheaded a potent second unit that chipped in when the first unit struggled. Unsurprisingly, this made the Canucks far more successful. Speaking of success, this game lived up to all the hype: it was without a doubt the game of the year. I’m very glad to say I watched this game.

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Everyone but the Canucks learned the wrong lessons from the Cup Final

Whenever a team wins the Stanley Cup, there is an inevitable copycat syndrome throughout the rest of the NHL. When the Blackhawks and the Flyers went to the Final in 2010 with bargain basement goaltenders in the same year that Jaroslav Halak went on a marvelous run for the Canadiens, the bottom fell out of the goalie market, teams with high paid goaltenders were soundly mocked, and teams looked to cheaper options in net as the key to playoff success.

One year later, two of the highest paid goaltenders in the league, Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo, were facing each other in the Finals.

The Blackhawks and Canadiens didn’t seem fooled by their own goaltenders’ performances, as the Blackhawks and Canadiens said farewell to Antti Niemi and Jaroslav Halak. It took the Flyers an extra season to figure things out, but they emptied their pocketbook to sign Ilya Bryzgalov in the offseason, perhaps seeing what good goaltending did for the Bruins and Canucks.

And now, since Boston won the Stanley Cup, teams are looking to follow their example as the path to success. In particular, teams seem to be looking to follow Boston’s example when playing against the Canucks.

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After over two decades of hockey, it stands to reason that a person’s observations about the game are a little more informed than the average joe. That in mind, Mark Recchi is going to get a special kind of respect when he speaks.

Maybe he shouldn’t?

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Last night did not go down quite the way I had hoped. I watched this team win 54 games in the regular season. I watched Daniel Sedin win the Art Ross Trophy and Roberto Luongo win the Jennings. I watched this team vanquish their archnemesis in Chicago, then systematically do away with the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks. I watched this team win 15 of the necessary 16 games a team needs to win it all. And then, rather than watching that last win — the win where the Canucks hoist the Cup — like I truly, madly, and deeply believed I would, I watched this game.

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Late and dirty though Boychuk’s hit on Raymond might have been, my opinion is that he didn’t target Raymond’s spine; he just wasn’t really thinking. If Boychuk were smarter, he would have eased up once he realized Raymond was vulnerable, but he committed to the hit without considering that, and an unfortunate accident resulted.

What astounds me is that this is also the prevailing public opinion. Most people are willing to give Boychuk the benefit of the doubt. Most agree it was just an “awkward play”, as Mike Murphy said in the issued statement that announced no suspension. I simply want to know: where was the benefit of the doubt when Aaron Rome hit Nathan Horton? In that case, prevailing opinion seemed to be that it was intentional.

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The chant begins at around the 40 second mark. You stay classy, Boston. It has been reported that Mason Raymond has a fractured vertebrae and will miss 3-4 months.

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At least in the first two games in Boston, the Canucks had the decency to have a good first period and give fans hope for a decent performance. No chance of that tonight, as the Canucks’ opening stanza was as painful as Vogon poetry. Everything fell apart faster than dominoes on a rowboat. Luongo ended up shot full of more holes than Daffy Duck. It was more depressing than Requiem for a Dream and had fewer enjoyable moments than Good Luck Chuck. In a word, it was awful. In two words, it was bloody awful. I hated watching it. But I did it for you. No, not you or you. But you. Yeah, you. For you, I watched this game.

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The truth is, of course, that it doesn’t truly matter how a team wins the Stanley Cup, though I might object if the Canucks began wielding chainsaws and dismembering their opponents. If the Canucks win the Cup, people will remember Burrows more for his overtime gamewinning goals than his biting incident. Lapierre will be the player who scored the only goal in a crucial Game 5 victory. Luongo will be hailed for his 2 (or more) shutouts in the Final, Henrik will be praised for being only the second European captain to lead his team to the Cup, and it will be revealed that Kesler was playing with 72 separate injuries.

It doesn’t matter how you win; there are no style points in hockey.

But maybe there should be.

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On Stanley Cup Final coverage and the problem of bias

In the field of sports journalism, objectivity seems held in higher regard than anywhere else, perhaps because, without it, it’s easy to brand sportswriters as glorified fans, a label that would severely diminish the value of their work. As a result, claiming there’s a bias in sports journalism has become a little like accusing the government of a conspiracy: in an effort to protect the credibility of the institution, we turn a blind eye to obvious instances of duplicity and discredit the individual speaking out

The moment someone suggests a conspiracy in government, he or she is branded a nutcase; the moment someone suggests a bias in sports journalism, he or she is branded a homer, the scarlet letter of sports writing.

But make no mistake: at the cost of sounding like a homer (which I can handle, as a Canucks blogger) there is a bias, and we’ve seen it in the laughably anti-Canucks national coverage of this year’s Stanley Cup Final.

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So we’re five games into the Stanley Cup Final, and Boston has outscored Vancouver 14 to 6. Tim Thomas is the Conn Smythe favourite. The Sedins have two points between them. Ryan Kesler has one assist. The Canucks’ powerplay is 1-for-25. That said, the only number that matters right now is the 3-2 series lead they take back to Boston. Many thought there was no way they could recover after the most unsuccessful trip to Massachusetts since the East India Company’s 1773 delivery of three shiploads of tea, but the Canucks regrouped, refocused, then forced the Bruins into a complete reenactment of game 1. In that game, Vancouver eked out a one-goal victory with a third-period marker from the third line. Sound familiar? I recognized the similarities because I watched that game nine days ago. And then, yesterday, I watched this game.

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Third Man In is a feature that reminds the world that PITB actually has three writers and occasionally, that third writer comes flying into the fray with his gloves off, looking for a piece of the action. Usually on Friday.

This week, Qris talks about overcoming adversity, who should mind the net in game 5, the telltale signs of lost composure, and the fatigue factor.

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12 goals against in two games? A hot goaltender shutting out the Canucks in one of those games? Luongo getting pulled and talk of a goaltending controversy? This all sounds very familiar. In Round One, the Canucks lost the plot after going up 3-0 against the Blackhawks, losing 7-2 and 5-0. The hope was that the Canucks would learn their lesson from these two collapses. Instead, in the Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks stopped playing their game, losing 8-1 and now 4-0 tonight. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s unwatchable. Therefore, I did the impossible: I watched this game.

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Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final was a debacle. That’s an unassailable fact. After a hard-fought first period where the Canucks were arguably the better team, they imploded in the second period, right around the time Alex Edler’s stick exploded. It was painful. It was ugly. It was embarrassing.

But it could have been worse. So, in honor of the 8 goals that the Bruins scored on Monday, here are 8 ways that everything could have been even more embarrassing than it was.

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I don’t think anybody could have foreseen the 8-1 drubbing the Bruins handed the Canucks yesterday. While some in Vancouver predicted a loss, most predicted a close loss, maybe another one-goal game with some late heroics. Instead, Canuck fans found their team on the wrong end of the second-worst blowout in Stanley Cup Final history. It was hard to take. There were tears of rage. Speaking of The Band, prior to the game, the air was electric, but when the final whistle went, the air was acoustic; it was like Dylan in reverse. Rogers Arena evolved from a viewing party into a Peanuts convention, with hordes of crestfallen fans doing the Charlie Brown all the way home. And as for me? Doctor says I’ve got a “mild mania”, which I think I developed when I watched this game:

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It was what everyone was talking about, the feel good story of the season. A triumphant return to the ice in Game 2 after no one thought it would happen. It was the longest of longshots that he would be available for the Canucks in this game, but Alex Burrows wasn’t suspended for his alleged bite and was brilliant tonight. Oh, and Manny Malhotra came back from injury. I guess that was also a big deal. I watched this game.

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Third Man In is a feature that reminds the world that PITB actually has three writers and occasionally, that third writer comes flying into the fray with his gloves off, looking for a piece of the action. Usually on Friday.

This week, Qris takes on goaltending duels, the importance of Game 1, special teams, and officiating.

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