VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks will take a feeling of quiet anger into the most important game in franchise history.
Canuck general manager Mike Gillis did a slow burn when talking about the hit that knocked forward Mason Raymond out of Wednesday night’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins.
Raymond was injured when hit by Johnny Boychuk of the Boston Bruins early in the first period of Vancouver’s 5-2 loss Monday night in Game 6 at Boston.
“I didn’t see the puck around him,” Gillis said Tuesday. “I thought the Boston player used a can opener and drove him into the boards with enough force to break his back.”
A Canuck release said Raymond suffered a vertebrae compression fracture and will be lost for three to four months. He remained in hospital in Boston and did not fly home with the team.
Gillis was careful when asked if he thought Boychuk should be suspended. No penalty was called on the play.
“I’m not in charge of supplementary discipline, so I’m not the right person to ask about that,” said Gillis.
“I think when you see the severity of that injury, the way our doctors described it to me (was) very, very dangerous. It wasn’t a chipped vertebra or cracked vertebra. It’s broken through the belly of his vertebra, so it’s a very serious injury. You never want to see any player on any team have an injury like that.”
The Canucks lost defenceman Aaron Rome for the series after he was suspended for a hit on Boston’s Nathan Horton that resulted in a concussion.
Bruins’ coach Claude Julien wasted no time on the issue.
“I haven’t looked at it that closely,” said Julien. “I don’t really have time to bother with that when you’ve got Game 7 coming up.
“We’ve talked more about what we need to do here, not analysing the injured players of the other team.”
Boychuk did not speak to the media.
There has been heated emotions and blood spilled during the series. There have been slashes after the whistle, gloves in faces and punches thrown.
The Canucks have complained the officials are turning a blind eye while the Bruins rough up players like Daniel and Henrik Sedin. When penalties are called, the Canucks are a laughable 2-for-31 on the power play.
Gillis, a lawyer, declined to comment on the officiating.
“That’s a question I don’t think I can answer without getting myself into trouble under any circumstance, so I’m not going to answer that,” he said.
Gillis publicly blamed the referees for the Canucks being forced to play a Game 7 in their first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. He said more penalties were called against the Canucks than Chicago.
Vancouver won the game but his rant earned Gillis a fine from the league.
The Canucks were forced to make another cross-continent flight after they blew the chance to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history Monday. What was supposed to be a defining moment in Canuck history turned into an embarrassment when goaltender Roberto Luongo allowed three goals in less than nine minutes in the first period.
The NHL officials who look after the Stanley Cup didn’t even bring the trophy into the building because of the lopsided score.
Luongo was replaced by backup Cory Schneider but is expected to start Game 7.
The Canucks have been outscored 17-3 in Boston, but have limited the Bruins to just two goals in three games in Vancouver. Luongo has recorded two shutouts.
“I just think we need to keep doing what we did at home the last three games,” said centre Ryan Kesler. “Focus on our game plan, execute it to a T and impose our will on them.
“Both teams want this, but we have to be the harder working team.”
The Canucks were the highest scoring team in the league, but have managed just eight goals in six games against the Bruins.
Kesler said Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and the Boston defensive deserves some credit.
“They’re a very good team and they play a very good defensive system,” said Kesler. “We just need to keep getting shots.”
The Canucks rolled into the playoffs after the best season in franchise history. Vancouver won the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time for having the best regular season record.
The Canucks set team records for 54 wins, 117 points and 27 road victories.
None of that will matter if the Canucks lose to the Bruins. What people will remember is Luongo allowing soft goals, the Sedins struggling to score in the final, and the Bruins pushing the Canucks around like school-yard bullies.
Coach Alain Vigneault said his team will be ready.
“I know we’re looking forward to the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honour to be able to play a seventh game in the Stanley Cup final.”
Raymond was hurt just 20 seconds into Game 6 when he got tangled up awkwardly with Boychuk. He was bent at the waist with Boychuk’s stick between his legs when Boychuk ran him backward into the boards near Boston’s net.
Raymond lay face down on the ice for several minutes before his teammates helped him off. He wasn’t moving his legs as his teammates guided him to the bench.
He was taken a local hospital for evaluation.
Gillis said “hopefully there won’t be surgery” but it could be November before the 25-year-old from Cochrane, Alta., is able to play again.
Raymond has two goals and eight assists in 24 playoff games. In 70 regular-season games the speedy forward had 15 goals and 24 assists.
“Mason is a popular guy on the team and we would love to have him,” said Canuck forward Chris Higgins.
“It’s unfortunate that he can’t play.”
Raymond joins a growing list of injured Canuck players.
Defenceman Dan Hamhuis is sidelined with an undisclosed injury, while Mikael Samuelsson is out after undergoing successful surgery to repair his adductor tendon and sports hernia.
Horton was ruled out for the rest of the series with a concussion after the hit, but returned to TD Garden for Game 6 to pump the crowd up by waving one of the Bruins’ yellow towels. He also made the trip to Vancouver.