EN ROUTE FROM VANCOUVER TO BOSTON – Some sunny Sunday observations after the first turn of the Stanley Cup final:
• There was a time when Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa would have responded to the two-handed slash across the ankles he received from Rich Peverley by trying to put Peverley through the boards on his next shift.
But this is a much more composed and mature Canucks team and like teammates Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler, Bieksa has become a poster boy for discipline and playing between the whistles.
Bieksa realized how high the stakes were in Game 2 and wisely didn’t go out of his way to avenge the slash. That doesn’t mean he isn’t ultimately going to even the score, though.
“There’s such a thing as karma,” Bieksa said. “Whether it’s next year or the year after, maybe someone will get (Peverley).”
• You’d have to think the way the Canucks won the first two games of this series – scoring late in Game 1 and coming back in Game 2 to win in overtime – will leave a distinct impression on both teams entering Game 3.
“Well I hope so,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “I’m not sure how they feel over there, but if I were in their position, that’s tough. Knowing you could have been up 2-0 and now you’re down 2-0. But I’m sure they’ll stay positive and as long as they don’t lose at home, they’re going to be in the series again.”
• Teams that win the first two games of the final have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 42 of 46 times. But at least the Bruins have some recent history to draw upon for inspiration. Just two years ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins went into an 0-2 hole against the Detroit Red Wings before coming back to win the series in seven games. The Penguins became the first team in NHL history to come back from 0-2 deficits in two series to win the Stanley Cup, overcoming the same deficit against Washington in the second round.
Coincidentally, the Bruins fell behind 0-2 to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round before coming back to win.
• For former Canucks GM David Nonis, these are indeed bittersweet times. There is no disputing both he and Brian Burke were major architects of this Canucks team, but neither will get his name on the Stanley Cup if the Canucks win.
Some things about Nonis’ departure from the Canucks still clearly stick in his craw. One of them is that one of the reasons he was fired was his refusal to trade some of the players on the roster that are helping the Canucks now.
“If I had done some of the things they asked me to do, that team wouldn’t be playing in the final right now,” said Nonis, the assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs under Burke. “There would have been a lot of players gone that are there now.”
Nonis acknowledges he’s happy for the players he and Burke worked with in their time with the Canucks and as difficult as it is to wonder what might have been, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing he left the Canucks in good shape.
“I’d rather be in the position of knowing that some of the things we did are going to help the team win than knowing the things we did ruined the team,” Nonis said. “If they pull this off, it’s not a bad resume builder.”
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.