The big and bad, gritty and nasty Vancouver Canucks.
How’s that for a change? The Canucks decided brute force was the answer against the rival L.A. Kings on Monday. Fights, attempted fights, hits. Plenty of scrums after whistles. And don’t forget the penalty kill, which was both effective and dangerous, especially in that chaotic opening 10 minutes.
As entertaining as it might’ve been, the Canucks came away with a loss and empty-handed in the points column against the Kings, a Pacific Division opponent.
The reasons for such a physical response dated back to Dustin Brown’s running of goalie Roberto Luongo 10 days ago. The Canucks were out to show the Kings and other teams in the Western Conference that they will no longer be pushed around.
It wasn’t always this way and fans have been critical of the Canucks in recent years when they would combat bruising opponents with their killer skill set, instead of fisticuffs or imposing their will physically.
It made for good and constant fodder on sports talk radio shows.
The debate Tuesday morning with local hockey fans was fervent. Opinions differed. In the minds of some, the Canucks earned a moral victory over the Kings and it was great their game came with such vitriol. Perhaps this is the turning of a corner with this edition. Perhaps it’s the John Tortorella Effect strengthening its hold.
The Canucks spoke of the positives afterward. They stuck up for each other and competed for everything.
Then there are those who would say it doesn’t matter because the Kings still won the game. And it was the supreme antagonist, the aforementioned Dustin Brown, who scored the winner.
Needless to say, a goal would’ve helped the Canucks. Two would’ve been ideal in a 1-0 hockey game.
They had their chances, including two third-period power plays, which went the unconventional route and utilized defenceman Kevin Bieksa in front of the opposition’s net. The Canucks failed to score.
That’s now zero wins in four games this season against the Kings.
Now the attention focuses to the Ducks, leaders of the division by 13 points as of Tuesday afternoon and holders of a 19-0-2 home record.
The Canucks, with 57 points, are fourth in the division, and would need a miracle in order to catch the Ducks. But they’re only six points up on the currently struggling Phoenix Coyotes, who have two games in hand on the Canucks.
A substantial hot streak would increase Vancouver’s hold on a playoff spot – they sit atop the Western Conference Wild Card race – heading into the Olympic break and stretch drive. That would give them at least a little breathing room in a conference that doesn’t allow for much error.
As much as fans would love to see their team become the hammer as opposed to the nail, the ability to score is paramount.
It doesn’t mean racking up four, five, six goals in a game. In today’s NHL, that seems largely impossible. Doesn’t mean the goals have to be highlight reel material. But on a night when they needed one for the single point and two for the win, they didn’t get any.
Three years ago, it would be that the power play was the Canucks’ knockout punch, when it was ranked tops in the league. Today, it’s no longer in the top 20. It doesn’t need to be the best; it only needs to come through when the opportunity is there.
Against the Kings, the opportunity was there. But the power play didn’t come through.
Ryan Kesler has only two goals in 15 games. Daniel Sedin hasn’t scored in six games, and has only two goals in the last 13 games. Henrik Sedin hasn’t scored since Dec. 14.
Nothing to show for on the score sheet, but all three were showed courage and were involved in the physical aspect against the Kings. Maybe that’s what they need. Maybe this is their galvanizing moment. Perhaps this ignites the offensive capabilities of those three in the paragraph above and that filters down to the supporting cast.
Because as great as moral victories can be, they also only go so far. Whether that translates into enough victories on the scoreboard to make it into the playoffs and make any kind of a run is something we’ll find out over the next few months.
Let the debate continue.
ARCHIBALD SENT BACK TO UTICA
The Canucks announced Tuesday that forward Darren Archibald has been sent back to the Utica Comets in the American Hockey League.
As per the Canucks’ official Twitter account, Tortorella said another forward will be recalled, however nothing has been announced. David Booth will also play Wednesday, after missing the last three games.