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What We Learned: Canucks vs. Bruins is both the best and worst of hockey

Ryan Lambert

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

What drama. What nastiness. What a sideshow.

And then the game started.

When the game was played reasonably, which admittedly wasn't often, particularly in the opening period, it was a wonderful example of why hockey is the best sport on earth. These are probably the two best teams in the game, skilled and mean and tough and fast and staunch in their own zone, and they play it beautifully.

Unfortunately, so much of this game — No. 42 of the regular season for Vancouver and 38 for Boston — was played up as some sort of continuation of last year's Stanley Cup Finals, particularly by the local media in both cities, that it became a total circus. They harped on the same tired tropes we'd all tired of in June. The Canucks dive! The Bruins are dirty! Roberto Luongo is mentally weak! Brad Marchand rabbit punched Daniel Sedin! It was, if nothing else, an exercise in trying to cram as many tire-pumping jokes into three days' worth of stories, helped immeasurably by Cory Schneider getting the start instead of Luongo.

By the time the game started enough middle school-level, "Did you hear what he said about you?" talk had flown around that even if there hadn't been any bad blood between the teams still lingering from last spring, things would have gotten chippy in a hurry. So this was always going to be a testy game with higher stakes than the typical regular-season affair.

The rhetoric was too much, and though it started with embarrassingly fanboyish tweets and stories from media on both sides of the continent, it reached its logical nadir with one Boston-based blog tweeting that anyone in the stands wearing a Canucks jersey for this one was "begging for it."

As Jack Edwards is so fond of saying, you "don't poke the bear," because the bear will respond. But if you do, you've got to be smart about it.

(Coming Up: There's simply no way Bruce Boudreau weighs 185 pounds; Turris fights Briere; teams without a shutout; more Tortorella gold; Greg Sherman has last laugh for now; the Red Wings lose realignment; John Tavares is awesome; Brodeur putting it together; fanning the Flames of Lance Bouma; the Jets hit the road with a thud; Penguins and Wild injured; so is Mike Green; Montreal fans protest coach; the winner and loser of the weekend; and the KHL article you have to read to believe.)

The Canucks very much were smart about it, and goaded the Bruins into giving them 11 power plays, one of which was a five-minute major and two more formed a full two-minute 5-on-3. On those, the Canucks scored three of their four goals. Their other goal was also on a power play.

Lots of Boston-based media members pointed out that this was likely the Canucks strategy of course, with the tacit implication being that this was in some way dishonorable and not The Way The Game Should Be Played. But in reality, it's a very intelligent tack for any team with the league's top power play to take, especially if they're also playing the team with the league's top 5-on-5 offense and defense, against whom scoring would otherwise be difficult.

Of course, that five-minute major wasn't one that the Canucks induced, so much as it was an intentional and dirty low-bridge on Sami Salo, who didn't have the puck, by Brad Marchand. The left wing, for all his entertainment value, is also developing quite the reputation as a guy who plays on the edge but who crosses the line into illegality all too often. And please don't buy for a second Claude Julien's nonsense about Marchand getting out his scuba gear to "protect himself."

One would hope that the two goals the Canucks scored during the ensuing major, which included Cody Hodgson's laser game-winner, gives Marchand pause. Because the league's supplementary discipline system has clearly done nothing to start him thinking about valuing his opponents' safety, maybe letting down his teammates will.

At the end of the day, despite all the scolding, one has to wonder how badly the Canucks feel they've besmirched the sport by going into the best team in hockey's building, taking two points and handing them just their second loss in the last 10 games.

Really, it's too bad that so much of the game had to be played with one team shorthanded (though anyone who thought it would end up any other way was deluding themselves). When the game was played at even strength, it was great, even if the Bruins were once again decisively better than their opponents, outscoring Vancouver 3-0.

This was intense, angry, fun and sometimes frustrating hockey to watch. These teams are better than the low-rent displays they put on (Dale Weise agreeing to fight Shawn Thornton, and then not doing it, was shameful), but the occasional glimpses into an actual hockey game, instead of a three-ring Barnum and Bailey's operation, between these two teams was wonderful.

They say familiarity breeds contempt but regular meetings between these two teams would have tempered the made-up storylines considerably because the media and teams and fans would have had to focus on the actual game. It is, therefore, a shame that these two teams play on opposite ends of the continent. These games bring out the worst in everyone but that would calm down had this been one of several meetings between the teams this season.

The antagonistic atmosphere on Saturday detracted from what should have been an aesthetically pleasing example of what this sport can be. But I'd watch 82 a year.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Anaheim fans love Bruce Boudreau because he's self-deprecating and honest. At 5-9-2, it certainly can't have much to do with coaching. Also, I don't see how this article gets away with calling him 5-9, 185.

Boston Bruins: Brad Marchand is only getting a phone hearing for the clipping on Sami Salo. That means five games at most.

Buffalo Sabres: Now that guys are getting back healthy again, why do the Sabres still stink? Luckily, Darcy Regier has no plans to shake things up.

Calgary Flames: I love the picture of Lance Bouma after he scored his first career goal here. He's just so excited.

Carolina Hurricanes: Carolina conceded four power play goals on five chances to the Predators, who have the third-best home power play in the league. Doesn't help that Carolina's road PK is 28th.

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks like where they sit at the season's halfway point. One area of concern, though, is that they have a lot of trouble keeping the puck out of the net, allowing 117 in 41 games.

Colorado Avalanche: Greg Sherman now has the remainder of the season to sit back, relax and laugh at everyone who reminds him he traded Kevin Shattenkirk (6-16-22) and Chris Stewart (9-7-16) for Erik Johnson (1-15-16) and Jay McClement (6-4-10). They're third in the Northwest and outside a playoff spot, baby!

Columbus Blue Jackets: Curtis Sanfordgot a shutout on Saturday against Los Angeles, the Jackets' first of the season. That leaves the Islanders, Senators and Blackhawks as teams without a clean sheet this year.

Dallas Stars: Next season, the Stars will not open training camp in Prince Edward Island as they have done each of the last two years. Instead, they'll do it in the somewhat less nonsensical locale of Boise.

Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Boo hoo realignment isn't happening do you know how terrible this is for the Red Wings? It's really bad you guys boo hoo hoo.

Edmonton Oilers: Jordan Eberle is the latest Oiler forward to head to the injured list after colliding knee-to-knee with Jamie Benn. No Ebs? No RNH? Why even watch an Oilers game these days? He'll be reevaluated today.

Florida Panthers: Poor Jacob Markstrom has been going back and forth between the AHL and NHL a lot this year. Friday was his first game back with the NHL club since November, and even if he lost, it was generally felt that he played well.

Los Angeles Kings: I think the Kings might be having some trouble scoring. In their last three games, they've popped in just two goals despite playing in two overtime periods. Two goals in 185:38 is, um, bad.

Minnesota Wild: More Wild injuries allow their fans to keep acting like the team has a chance to be competitive for the remainder of the year. Cute!

Montreal Canadiens: Canadiens fans: Still dumb. Because lost in all this "OUR COACH ONLY SPEAKS ONE LANGUAGE QUELLE OUTRAGE" nonsense is the fact that Randy Cunneyworth's club has won three of the last five, including Saturday's game. Not great, but also not as bad as when the whole furor started.

Nashville Predators: Lance Bouma wasn't the only guy to get his first NHL goal on Saturday. Ryan Ellis really stepped into a puck from Roman Josi to get his as well.

New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur think he's starting to get it together here after a disastrous loss to Boston earlier in the week in which he gave up six goals on 27 shots. He stopped 41 of 42 from a very injured Penguins team, but you take wins where you can get 'em.

New York Islanders: Saturday was John Tavares' 200th game (and Mark Streit's 400th and Josh Bailey's 250th) but what's most impressive is that Tavares, despite having very little in the way of help, has 156 career points in that time. Hell of a player.

New York Rangers: Reporters asked John Tortorella about if the Rangers are good enough to be contenders for the Stanley Cup. Tortorella called the question, "a crock." How do you not love Torts, eh?

Ottawa Senators: "Turris deserves kudos for dropping gloves." Yeah, against Danny Briere. What a tough customer Kyle Turris is.

Philadelphia Flyers: Speaking of which, here's Turris getting pumped by Briere. Kudos again, Kyle.

Phoenix Coyotes: Kind of lost in that whole Shane Doan's first career hat trick thing was that Mike Smithturned in a very good performance against the Isles on Saturday, who just recently got over a groin injury.

Pittsburgh Penguins: With Jordan Staal and James Nealadded to the lengthy list of the Penguins' key contributors who are out for a significant amount of time, the sky is pretty much falling. The Pens are currently eighth in the East, 4-6-0 in their last 10, and things are fixing to get worse, not better.

San Jose Sharks: Peep the pass by Jumbo Joe Thornton on this Patrick Marleau goal. Hoo boy.

St. Louis Blues: Let it be known that for about 20 hours this weekend, the Blues were all alone at first in their division. Yes, really.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Can Brett Connollykeep scoring like he did at the World Juniors? The better question is, can he convince every other team in the NHL to start dressing 19-year-old Czechs?

Toronto Maple Leafs: The headline obviously is that the Leafs beat the Red Wings 4-3 on Saturday night, but did so having blown a 3-0 lead and getting outshot 40-18. Any win over a team like the Red Wings, though, is a good one.

Vancouver Canucks: That clipping play by Marchand didn't hurt Sami Salo's knees but it did give him a concussion.

Washington Capitals: Mike Green left last night's game with a "tightening" in his groin. Precautionary move, apparently, but still a cause for concern for the Caps, who saw their four-game winning streak snapped in San Jose, where they haven't won since 1993.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets hit the 41-game mark with an overtime win against Buffalo, prompting Claude Noel to say, "We are happy to be where we are, but not satisfied. We need more wins in January to stay in the hunt." Well hey if it's anything like December you'll have another dozen or so home games and win a bunch. Oh what's that? Nine of Winnipeg's games are on the road this month? And they've already lost two of them? Go figure.

Gold Star Award

It took him just one thousand one hundred sixty-one games, but Shane Doan finally has an NHL hat trick. And it took him 19:59.9 or so into that one to pull it off.

Minus of the Weekend

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

If even a quarter of these stories about how horrible it is to be in the KHL are true, it's horrifying.

Play of the Weekend

Lance Bouma scored his first-ever NHL goal and Olli Jokinen played in his 1,000th career game and no one cared because this happened instead:

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "JoDee" has the Caps involved for some reason.

To Leafs:

To Caps:

To Anaheim:
Washington 1st
Toronto 1st

It's called drainage. I own everything around it, so I get everything underneath it.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.


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