Canucks Army Postgame: Moral Victories All Over The Ice!

Let’s just be completely honest and upfront with ourselves: the only redeeming quality to Vancouver’s Saturday night showdown against Calgary was the two points the Canucks pocketed in the standings. I have a far more tolerant view of fighting than some of the other great writers here, and I thought the line brawl to start the game was hilarious and entertaining in the moment, but at the end of the day it was completely pointless, detrimental to the rest of the game, and another embarassing incident for a franchise that’s quickly building quite the collection for themselves in the past week.

Unfortunately, the fights, nastiness and other extracirriculars (you know the ones) are going to be the prevailing narrative in the coming days, not just in Vancouver, but more than likely throughout the entirety of North America. I referenced a 3-2 loss to Calgary being more embarassing than the 9-1 drilling that happened in Anaheim in my last post-game report, but I don’t think anyone could have imagined the madness that happened tonight. I’m sure we’ll have a lot more in the coming days, but read past the jump for our initial impressions of tonight’s 3-2 shootout win.

The Rundown

There’s basically the game story right there. There were five fights off the opening faceoff, resulting in eight ejections for secondary altercations. The Canucks lost Dale Weise and Kellan Lain (two seconds into his NHL debut), but more importantly Jason Garrison and Kevin Bieksa as well. Kevin Westgarth, Chris Butler, Blair Jones and Ladislav Smid were lost to the Flames, so that trade-off probably benefitted the road side.

Now, I’ll get to John Tortorella in a second, but Bob Hartley’s decision to start Kevin Westgarth at centre and claim it’s because his line "has been playing well," then have Mark Giordano taking shots at Alex Burrows’ broken jaw is as bush league as it gets. To say that he wanted that line, with two designated fighters, out there to try and score a goal is ridiculously transparent and insane. It was clear that Hartley fully intended to start the violence early, and he got exactly what he wanted. There is a precedent here too when it comes to punishing a coach that puts a goon on the ice, as ex-Buffalo Sabres head coach Ron Rolston was fined earlier this year for "player selection" that resulted in the infamous John Scott/Phil Kessel incident, even though Randy Carlyle had the last change. One would expect that a similar punishment is coming Hartley’s way.

With all this being said, we’d be remiss to say that John Tortorella isn’t to blame here. He absolutely shares the blame, and rightly so. Bob Hartley cast the line and Tortorella swallowed the bait hook, line, and sinker. Tortorella’s defense for playing right into Hartley’s hand is essentially "I had to protect my stars," which is fine, except for a couple of reasons:

  1. We saw with the Scott/Kessel incident that as soon as a mugging starts happening, a scrum ensues and players make sure that the stars are protected without the need for a full-on line brawl.
  2. You could have started Higgins-Richardson-Booth and told them not to engage in a fight, just create a scrum if the Flames try anything dumb.

Either way, you don’t have to put your stars at risk if you want to defuse the situation, and I think either of the above alternatives would have succeeded in at the very least making Calgary look like the overwhelmingly huge idiots here. Instead, John Tortorella did more than enough to ensure a line brawl, and that’s completely unacceptable, just as his conduct between periods was. One would expect fines for him as well.

All in all, I think Travis Yost did the best job of summing up the situation:

You can also read Dimitri’s thoughts hereOh, and there was still 59:58 of a hockey game to be played, too.

Mark Giordano opened the scoring for Calgary on the powerplay, but Ryan Kesler responded to tie the game at 1-1 shortly thereafter:

Then, after Matt Stajan had pulled the Flames ahead 2-1  in the 3rd, Yannick Weber answered with this bullet on the powerplay:

There would be no more scoring, but Weber would score again in the shootout and Chris Higgins would add the winner to seal the deal for Vancouver.

The Numbers

ExtraSkater.com.

This wasn’t a very strong game for Vancouver, given their hapless opponents. Losing Kevin Bieksa didn’t help, but a less-than-100% Henrik Sedin is crippling. The captain played despite being a "game-time decision," but had to leave after the second period with an injury. Losing Henrik and Santorelli could be devastating to Vancouver in the short term, but I think it’s at the point now that holding Henrik out of the lineup is the best move for the long term. If being pushed to the ice causes him as much discomfort as it appeared to tonight, something is very, very wrong.

Kellan Lain’s NHL debut on the other hand only lasted two seconds, but those two seconds were enough to land him a place in the NHL record books:

So he may not have got to play in front of his family who flew in from Ontario, but I guess an NHL record is a #moralvictory at the very least.

The Conclusion

With Henrik Sedin out, we should resign ourselves to the fact that this slump isn’t ending any time soon. Does this mean that the proverbial window is closed? No, absolutely not. This Canucks team demonstrated an ability to control play against the NHL’s elite teams earlier this season, and I’d expect them to be able to do so once again when they drag themselves out of this funk.

The next game is Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers, so at least there’s no potential there for any more ridiculous instances of violence. Nope, none at all. Especially not involving Zack Kassian or Sam Gagner or Sam Gagner’s jaw. Good thing too, because I’m getting tired of writing about the latest "well that was dumb" situation, and I’m sure you’re all tired of reading about them too. Until then, all the best and enjoy the football tomorrow. Go Seahawks!

  • jung gun

    line brawls are not a new thing but i’ve never seen 8 guys kicked out of a game off of an opening faceoff. is this officiating really on par with what we’ve seen with other teams? it was even alluded to during the intermission with pj stock going off about how in new york tortarella had an incident against the devils where the exact same thing happened and elliot friedmann played devil’s advocate and pj stock and kevin weekes got defensive calling freidmann “silly”. just seems officiating in canucks games has been different then others. if i’m wrong please give me examples.

  • jung gun

    I agree that it was all pretty stupid but I don’t begrudge Torts for putting the big guys out there. I do disagree with your assertion that, as per the Kessel situation, it would just become a scrum. Calgary (knowing the other coach) was coming regardless so, why put out any of the team’s first three lines? Calgary was going to go after someone (Kassian, Kesler, etc). At the end of the day, I am glad the Canucks stick up for themselves now.

    I think the fighting is stupid but come playoff time, the team will be better prepared than they have been for the last two years. Maybe they don’t beat LA or Ana but at least they will go down fighting. No more rolling over. Love it. Love Torts…did what he had to do.

  • cunning_linguist

    giordano grabs kassian’s stick, pulls it to his belly and drops to the ice! what!?!? i thought maybe this dude deserved to be in sochi more than good ol’ danny hamhuis but, that was just pathetic. and he wears the “C”! shiiiiit

  • Big Cap

    Loved watching Torts “Hold Me Back ” routine near the dressing room.

    Clint Malarchuk came storming out to discuss what Torts problem was, and Big John went running for the hills.

    Vancouver barely beat a bottom 5 team. They have bigger problems than this little dust up their so concerned about.

    Earlier in the week when everyone said after the LA game it would be the turning point in their season, and they’ll rally from litterly their first game of the year of any emotion. When in fact what we saw the next night, was a team so mentally and physically drained they got BOMBED 9-1.

    I hope the Canucks can continue to pick up points playing at home, against bottom 5 teams, becuase they cant do it on the road, or against anyone as equal as them or better.

    9th Place Here We Come!!

  • jung gun

    “Then have Mark Giordano taking shots at Alex Burrows’ broken jaw is as bush league as it gets”
    Did I read that correctly?
    Did Giordano break Burrows’ jaw? No. His own teammate hit him with a clearing attempt. Would you like an example of BUSH LEAGUE?

    How about your classless boxing hobo taunting an opposing player who’s jaw he had broken?
    Would that count?
    And you wonder why the rest of the country has nothing but contempt for this team and their fans?

    Cripes

    • pheenster

      Perhaps if you slowed down and read a little bit more carefully. It didn’t say that Giordano broke his jaw. It said that it’s bush league to take a shot at a player wearing protective gear for a broken jaw in his first game back. If Kassian had actually thrown punches at Gagner when he was back from his injury then yes, that would in fact be terrible. But smack talk is not the same as actually smacking someone. They are in fact, two quite distinct things.

      The entire thing was a farce. Westgarth, McGratton and Sestito, not one of them should be in the league. If the NHL was serious about anything — preventing injuries, protecting players, improving the skill of the game — they’d fine Hartley for the stupid lineup, Tortorella for the between-periods idiocy, and toss each of the main combatants for a few games.

    • Brobidus

      What he was trying to say is that it’s quite unmoral to go after a guys jaw, when it’s clearly visible that he is not fully recovered.

      That kind of behavior is cheap and could mean serious injury for life and it shouldn’t be tolerated.
      A fight is a fight and only fair when both participants agree to it. Injuring someone on purpose is being a cheapskate.

      And the reason you despise the Canucks Sir, is your own personal opinion. Just like I despise certain teams. You don’t have to go tell the world, because frankly the world doesn’t care and no one needs to hear your negativity.

  • acg5151

    Torts did what he had to do. If he hadn’t and put out his second line, everyone would have still moaned about the Canucks not standing up for team and being ‘soft’. We can’t win in these situations, PR-wise. Also what if the Flames guys had taken a shot at some one like Ryan Kesler or Chris Higgins and injured a more important guy? It was kind of funny at first, but it put our team at a disadvantage.

    Instead, we showed them that we weren’t going to be intimidated and what was left of our team was invigorated. Unfortunately, that was working counter to 4 guys getting thrown out of the game.

    After the LA game and now this game, I think the Canucks have a lot more credibility as a team. Let’s see whether they can string up some W’s and get some guys off IR.

    Also Bob Hartley is a tool. Seriously, did he expect Torts to just sit back and let their goon squad walk all over us?

    Giordano going after Burrows jaw was pretty bush league too. How are the Flames even a real NHL team?

  • acg5151

    Now that’s certainly a way to engage your players and get them into the game…and the media, the fans, the bloggers, the league office…

    Gotta give Hartley credit..he suckered Tort in knowing the recent California road-swing where they tried to get physical and got man-handled. Hartley outcoached Torts, and the Nucks lost their composure and were off their game. Hartley’s tactics nearly won the game except for a weak penalty call on Gio.

    Entertaining to say the least. Torts and the team will have to be better if they want to challenge for the Cup this year.

  • andyg

    We all know that they are in a bit of a funk right now. Some times you need to fight your way out of it.

    I am looking forward to seeing a little more of LAIN. Hopefully more than 2 seconds.

  • andyg

    Let’s be real honest here: the Canucks are 19 points ahead of the Flames. They had to go to a shoot out in order to secure two points against them. That’s not exactly a sure thing. Now, I know that all teams in the NHL can win on any given night. But this game does not spell out “Turning It Around”.

    That said, I love it when the Canucks can do something to anger the “tut-tut” that lies in the heart of the rest of the country.

    Can we simply switch the jerseys back to black, yellow and red?

  • andyg

    I don’t know who is worse – everyone else or our own fan base. The team may be on the way to losing its soft image, but not Canucks fans.

    There is one very simple response to all of this. Not in our own barn. No one comes in here and tries to push us around. If you try it’s a declaration of war.

    Look I want to win hockey games (which we did by the way), but I am NOT going to join others here in apologizing for not backing down. Especially when every other franchise and coach in the league would have been praised for simply playing a little “old time hockey”.

    Take your special set of standards and rule book for the Canucks and shove them where the sun don’t shine.

  • andyg

    Payback is a bitch. Poor Burrows. I salute you Calgary Flames for
    doing what i wish the Oilers could. You did Alberta Proud and everyone
    East of the AB-BC Border.

    Suck it Canucks …

    Someone should pop Torts right in the beak as well.

    You team is in regress Vancouver.

    • andyg

      Hey that was epic – we want to see what the responses are.
      Yeah our teams suck [ right now ] but… the window is almost shut
      on you once again with nothing to show. Nothing – Zero.

      Sorry Grey Cups dont count.

      No one likes Vancouver or the Canucks , don’t you get it ?

      • jung gun

        No one likes vancouver??? So the second largest populated city in canada which constantly ranks in the top 5 cities to live in the world is not a desired place to live? Say what you want about my team but don’t you dare attack my city. It is clearly the most beautiful place in canada. You’re probably just depressed because you live in a place that is -20 for 8 months of the year has no good looking women, the hockey teams have been inept since 2006 and it’s really, really cold. we have great beer, beautiful women, and tho it rains (which i actually like) the weather is quite pleasant most of the year. so ya, you might not like our hockey team and i’ll applaud anyone who has a valid argument why their team is better, But my city is a beautiful place to live.

  • Marsh

    Let’s look at it from Calgary’s point of view. What do the Flames possibly have to gain by starting a goon lineup and clearly wanting a fight? Was this Hartley’s idea or Brian Burke’s -he of the “get tougher” philosophy? Even if Calgary had won it would not make any difference in their short term future, and even if one found the line brawl entertaining, the upside for Calgary was microscopic. Ergo, pointless move.

  • Marsh

    Protip to Canucks Army: there’s a big gap in the Canucks blog market for writers who actually see some positives in what the team is doing. You will never be as smarmy and negative as PITB (especially Mooney) so go the other way. Look at the trend between what’s getting trashed in your own comments section for goodness sake. Canucks fans love the spirit this team has developed under Torts.

    Create a “good on the Canucks for going back to old time hockey roots and policing games themselves” post. Your traffic will explode.

    • andyg

      It’s very simple, if we ever want to see a cup come to van we need to be bigger and tougher.(not just fighting) The league has shown that it wants it to be part of the game. They would never openly say it.

      Hanzal was a one man wrecking ball in the last game with his stick work. One man down with shoulder injury ,our captains bruised ribs and the cross check to Booth. He got one 2 min penalty. That is what happened in the 2011 play off run and the team was beat to a pulp by the end.

  • mk

    I’d be embarrassed if I were Tortorella or a Canuck today. The team got goaded into a street fight with an awful team (as a Flames fan I know this roster is terrible) and then played down to their level the rest of the night. The coach went nuts and tried to … I’m not exactly sure what he was trying to do in the hallway.

    Simple solution for a coach with a modicum of intelligence: start a line with actual hockey skills and laugh as they score against a TERRIBLE lineup. I mean, don’t teams drool about getting their top players out against 4th lines, because the imbalance of skill is so massive? I agree, that lineup was bush-league, but Tortorella played the exact same game and barely won with a massively better roster.

    Edit: For all those who say Tortorella had no choice, there are some additional points for you. http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/john-tortorella-awkward-history-faceoff-fights-bob-hartley-211638086–nhl.html

    • jung gun

      I felt Tortorella handled the situation fairly well. Hartley chose a starting lineup that’s well suited to fighting. Therefore, Tortorella had to respond with a lineup that can handle a fight. If Tortorella had started a skilled lineup less able to fight, the Canucks would have a higher likelihood of scoring on the shift. However, they’d also be more likely to have a player injured or suspended (eg. Phil Kessel on John Scott). In a regular season game against a non-playoff opponent, it’s more important to avoid injury/suspension than to score lots of goals. The Canucks didn’t need to beat the Flames 9-1. They only needed to win by one goal.

      One thing Tortorella could have done better was instruct his starting five to avoid fighting if possible. Nevertheless, Tortorella definitely chose the right five players to start.

  • jung gun

    I have no delusions with regards to this team. It’s not a very good team. That being said, it has been entertaining to watch these shenanigans.

    Sure, Torts probably could’ve handled it better, but I like his passion. He is probably only one of a few remaining coaches who would ever go straight to the visiting team’s hallway between periods.

    I’m not one to parrot “old time hockey” or whatever. I think that’s enormously stupid. But, with the way the game seems to be called these days, I feel like it’s getting more and more to the point that we need to see teams return to that style, because the players are just not being protected by the refs or the league to any meaningful extent. If that means that the team needs to go out and fight and such in an attempt to police the game, so be it.

    Frankly, I don’t think we’d be in this situation if the refs called games much more consistently and didn’t let any number of things go for “flow”. Also, if the league handed out more suspensions like Scott Thornton’s, goons would probably think twice before skating in and trying to knock people to the ice.

    If Jordan Nolan had gotten something for trying to slewfoot Henrik Sedin AND Sestito had gotten something for jumping Nolan when he wouldn’t fight, I bet you’d see a lot less of either. And I’m not just talking suspensions.

    The league also needs to clamp down on diving. None of this will ever happen though, so enjoy the return of clutch and grab hockey and minor officiating for the foreseeable future. I, however, don’t mind if every team in the league goons it up though, because that’s the kind of culture the NHL fosters through its own actions.