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Canucks Brunch: Tripping Over The Same Rock

It took a while for this game to come to a boil, but we finally saw something we'd been waiting for last night from the Canucks: A strong third period where they didn't let the game slip away. Unfortunately, there was a handful of incidents this weekend that the NHL will be looking at that are once again bringing a focus on the violence in the sport.

Rich Lam

Sure it wasn't a perfect game, but coming off that 3rd period meltdown, in another game against a team ahead of them in the standings, the Vancouver Canucks needed to send a message in this game, and while it looked for a short while like it was going to be another one of those 1 goal nailbiters, we finally saw them get things done in the 3rd.  Man, that line of Ryan Kesler, Mike Santorelli and Chris Higgins is coming together nicely, isn't it?  Santorelli with the opening goal and the insurance, and Kes banging home the eventual winner in the 3rd, stepping up on a night when the Sedins looked flat whether having Jannik Hansen or David Booth on their side.

How bad have 3rd periods been at home for the Canucks?  Try blown leads in 5 of their last 7 on Rogers Arena ice.  Simply unacceptable, and the team know it, so it felt good to see them get that third goal.  As far as losing the shutout goes, chalk that up to a game where Ryan Stanton struggled a bit, which is something we haven't had to say a lot this year.  It wasn't his first mistake on the night, but his inability to clear the puck there leads to that late goal by Jamie McGinn.

Another strong game from Roberto Luongo, who's really cranked his game up a notch since that disastrous outing against the Rangers.  It's likely though that he'll be given a well deserved night off, so expect to see Eddie Lack in goal tonight as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes for the 2nd time in just over a week.  One thing that surprised me about that previous meeting was the amount of emotion shown.  There were some big hits from both teams, some fights, a couple nasty hits from behind and most notably, that ridiculous turtle job from Mike 'Delta Bravo' Komisarek.  Expect that to be addressed tonight.

Now, onto this weelend's ugliness.  First up on this edition of the Three Stooges is Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo.  Proto-goon Rinaldo got things rolling yesterday with this shift.  Keep in mind his TOI for this: 4 seconds.

I don't know what Dominic Roussel did to anger Rinaldo, but something must have happened previously, because 4 seconds isn't enough time for even the most skilled of pests to piss someone off to that extent.  None of this matters of course, as Rinaldo drops the gloves and tries to sucker Roussel, missing with the first punch, but connecting on the second after rag-dolling him.  Zero interest in fighting by Roussel, and unlike the PBP team states in the video (which includes former Flyer Keith Jones), Roussel didn't turtle here.  Rinaldo has been suspended once, plus holds the distinction of being fined twice for separate incidents in the same game against New Jersey in 2012.  Can anyone explain to me why this is NOT being looked at by the Department of Player Safety for even a fine?  Ridiculous.

Next up we have James Neal.  Neal has made a bit of a reputation for himself as a player who sneaks over that line between clean and dirty.  But as you can see in this video, it's pretty difficult to buy into his pleas of innocence as he clips Brad Marchand in the head with his knee as he goes by.  Neal was previously suspended for 1 game during the 2012 playoffs, and let's not forget that there was this incident in June between Marchand and Neal.  Certainly makes it look like Neal saw an opportunity for some payback and went for it.  That hit is one of many examples why Marchand is one of the league's worst.  He's pure scum, and I want to be clear here, it's no justification at all for what Neal's done here, it's a case of Marchand in particular, and the Bruins in general reaping what they've sewn.

Now on to the creme de la creme of idiocy: Mr. Shawn Thornton.  Here's the incident (it also includes Neal's knee to the head of Marchand) :

Right now there's a debate raging about the hit by Orpik.  Was it a clean hit?  While you look at the hit, apart from the fact that Eriksson doesn't keep his head up, it appears that Orpik keeps it to body contact, doesn't target the head and doesn't leave his feet.  The issue though, is where's the puck?

Even if as the Bruins claim that the puck is nowhere near Eriksson on the hit, the fact remains: Thornton asked Orpik to fight and he refused.  Here's where the problem lies.  After this point, the problem person in this equation is not Shawn Thornton, but Bruins coach Claude Julien.  Julien continues to send Thornton out to get the payback they're looking for.  One thing's for sure, is there anything more nauseating than the Bruins and Julien calling this incident 'unfortunate' and trying to play the victim card?  Actually there is, but we'll deal with PJ Stock and the rest of the Bruins Dept. of Propaganda in a moment.  What Shawn Thornton did to Brooks Orpik is not unfortunate.  It was disgusting.  It was cowardly.  And it has no place in hockey.  Unfortunate is a player getting injured on an accidental collision, or getting hit with a puck.  The Bruins were quick to trot Thornton out in front of the cameras, saying how sorry he was.  I'm sure he is, but that doesn't change what he did.

Then there's PJ Stock and the comments on HNIC, where he basically blames the entire incident on Orpik's refusal to fight.  This is insanity.  Not to mention the 'two little punches' quip, which is probably the dumbest thing he's said (which is saying something).  Those two little punches left Orpik unconscious, you jackass.  The hit, in the eyes of the officials and Orpik, was clean.  Sure, it's open to debate whether or not it actually was, but if he's not gonna dance, the only other option is to look to get a hit on him to pay him back.  That's it.  To see so many media types go right into their automatic Bruins defence mode (which we on this side of the continent are pretty damn sick of, to be honest) was extremely disheartening.  We saw first hand just how devastating this type of vigilante bullshit can be in the past, and Thornton should be thankful he didn't seriously injure Orpik (another shocking defender of Thornton was the Denver Post's Adrian Dater.  You'd think he of all people would recognize just how serious this is, but nope, he blamed Orpik).  You know what likely prevents this from happening?  The officials giving Thornton a 10 minute misconduct instead of a 2 when he first challenges Orpik.  Sure it's hindsight, but it's pretty obvious that the Bruins are looking for payback.  Best to diffuse the situation and send a message at the same time.  Perhaps that's asking a lot of NHL officials, who just seem to be getting progressively worse season by season.

Finally, let's take a look at another incident, this one late in last night's game between the Leafs and the Bruins.  Noted cro-magnon Dion Phaneuf with a mind-numbing hit from behind on Kevan Miller.

No defense of this hit either.  A dirty, cowardly hit on a vulnerable player, who's likely spared a more serious injury by his face shield, which seems to keep his face from getting crushed into the boards.  Phaneuf will be suspended for this, but it blows my mind that there's no penalty call here.  Once again though, the indignation from Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley, especially after their hatchet job on Orpik Saturday night, not to mention a career of refusing to call out the hands down dirtiest team in the NHL since the dark days of the Broad Street Bullies.  I saw someone on Twitter question why hits like Phaneuf's and Orpik's keep happening to the Bruins.  It's my belief that they're simply reaping what they sew, and the Penguins as well.  The league is complicit in this by letting them off light so many times in the past.  Perhaps we'll finally see some justice doled out, but as we saw with Phaneuf's hit a night later, the threat of suspension from the Dept. Of Player Safety doesn't appear to be a deterrent. Until they start to send a message with consistency (and there's already none in this situation, thanks to not giving Rinaldo punishment), the NHL will continue tripping over the same rock when they come across it.


Christmas is coming, and King Diamond has some bad news for you: