BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 07: Sami Salo #6 of the Vancouver Canucks is helped off the ice after he tried to viciously attack Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins on January 7, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Fortunately Marchand wasn't hurt in this premeditated attack. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Last night I was chatting with with PITB's Harrison Mooney and called Saturday's 4-3 Canucks win in Boston 'The Game That Wouldn't Die'. It really has taken a life of it's own, both sides taking shots at each other in the media, 3rd parties getting involved by trying to defend Marchand's actions. It's as entertaining as it is nauseating. I know there's gonna be tons of stuff coming still, and we'll cover it here as you know, but I'd like to talk about tonight's game. Yeah, there's actual hockey to be played, and I think people should be wary of this one. Unlike the Canucks taking a bottom-dwelling team lightly, the Florida Panthers, along with Toronto and Ottawa, have been the surprise of the Eastern Conference this season. Sure they have 8 OT/SO points, but this is a team that's been surprisingly competitive this season, surging to the top of the lackluster Southeast Division. Are Dale Tallon's Panthers for real, or are they simply the benefactors of the worst division in hockey, buoyed by a sub-par Capitals team and a disappointing Tampa Bay squad?
Let's face it, after Saturday's tilt, it's hard for anyone to get excited for tonight's game against Florida outside of the gang down in Sunrise. That's not so much a slight on them, just an acknowledgement of how much bigger the game against the Bruins became. But with the Panthers taking teams by surprise this season, along with the intertwined relationship between these two teams, there's definitely enough storyline to make this game worth watching. Sean's pregame post has the trade history between the two teams, but the two stories I want to keep an eye on are how the most recently swapped players fare against each other, and how the Canucks fare emotionally after the roller coaster ride of the weekend. I think there's enough former Panthers on the Canucks, including the recently called up Mike Duco, to give them the motivation they need tonight.
Chris Higgins will also be looking to do well in his former home, and you know Roberto Luongo loves to play against his former team. We also look forward to what kind of performance we will see from Mikael Samuelsson. F-You Sweden was a bit of a polarizing figure during his time here in Vancouver. When he was on, he was a game changer, with a lethal wrist shot and a nose for the net. There were also times where he looked almost puzzled on the ice, as though he was struggling to comprehend what was going on without him. He served the Canucks well, and I would have loved to see him in the Finals, but he didn't factor in to the ever-evolving Canucks future and was shuffled out along with Marco Sturm in the trade that gave the Canucks David Booth.
Booth has been cleared to play medically but there's been no word that he will suit up tonight, and Duco is in the lineup to replace Andrew Ebbett, who suffered a broken collarbone after a high hit Saturday by Dennis Seidenberg. Sami Salo suffered a concussion after Brad Marchand low-bridged him, allowing Alexander Sulzer to get back into the lineup. The German rookie has looked good so far, but the loss of Salo for any length of time is a blow to the Canucks for sure.
If the Panthers have a flaw, it's a one-dimensional offensive attack. The line of Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss have combined for 105 points, and they're getting a hell of a season from Brian Campbell, but scoring drops off rather dramatically after that. Expect to see Ryan Kesler and his line paying a lot of attention to the Panthers top line tonight.
The rhetoric is flying fast and furious right now, so here's hoping that a little actual hockey will get the focus back where it belongs. I am sure it's only going to get worse with the Bruins management now trying to claim that people are 'picking on their team', and the announcement of Brendan Shanahan's hearing with Brad Marchand expected at any time. It's gonna be a bumpy ride, kids. It is kind of pleasing to see the Bruins finally getting called on crying victim here, and the speed and ferocity with which their TASS-like media corps (hat tip to Iain Macintyre for that gem) has tried everything they possibly can to spin this out of any form accountability on their part. The Canucks are doing their share of this, and aren't angels themselves, but there's so much unbelievable garbage spewing from those Massholes right now (including death threats on Twitter). Reading comprehension is your friend, kids.
No Leftovers. Dustin Penner ate them.
Somewhere Brent Sopel is breathing a sigh of relief, as his 'back injury picking up a cracker' has been one-upped by LA's Dustin Penner. Penner, whose battles with conditioning, let's say, are well documented, blew his back out while tackling a stack of pancakes. Alright, to be fair, it happened when he sneezed. But still, there was food involved here and let's face it, we all would have assumed it given his battle of the bulge in past years. I feel bad for the guy as someone who battles weight issues, but at the same time as a professional athlete it seems like these things usually stem from not doing everything to keep his tools sharp, if you know what I mean. Nascar drivers don't race without changing the oil and tuning up the car (forget bashing me, I don't give a squirt about racing just looking for an analogy here). A professional athlete who doesn't take care of his body is gonna get ridiculed... Injuries galore for the Penguins, as they've lost Jordan Staal and James Neal for extended periods, both Anaheim Ducks goalies are injured, and the Chicago Blackhawks will be without Patrick Sharp for up to a month... Shanahan has a busy day as 2 Ducks are also up for incidents last night. Francois Beauchemin and JF Jacques are getting called onto the carpet for illegal hits in last night's game against Columbus. The Beauchemin hit on Jeff Carter has left the Blue Jackets C with a separated shoulder, while JF Jacques could see himself in hot water as a repeat offender. Jacques was given an 8 game suspension in the preseason for his attack on Mike Duco in a preseason match against the Canucks.
CLASSIC METAL SONG OF THE DAY
A slight twist for you as I decided not to bog down the post with multiple videos, instead I will feature a song from Martin Popoff's book 'The Top 500 Metal Songs Of All Time'. So without further adieu, here's #381, from their The Real Thing album: 'Surprise! You're Dead' by Faith No More.