It is becoming the most vicious rivalry in hockey, Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins, and weekend events only aggravated things.
Normally reserved Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was furious Sunday after Bruins forward Brad Marchand was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for clipping the Canucks’ Sami Salo in the teams’ Saturday matinee. The veteran defenceman reportedly suffered a concussion on the play.
Marchand faces a possible fine or suspension and has a hearing with the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan, on Monday.
The Canucks capitalized on Marchand’s penalty to score twice and beat the Bruins 4-3 in Boston, where Vancouver failed so badly in last June’s Stanley Cup final. After Saturday’s game, Bruins coach Claude Julien floated the weird theory that the 5-foot-9 Marchand’s low-blow hit on Salo was self-defence.
Vigneault was less than impressed with Julien and Marchand on Sunday, speaking in Florida ahead of the Canucks’ game against the Panthers on Monday.
“That’s stupid,” Vigneault said of Julien’s explanation. “That’s a stupid comment. What Marchand did there, you could end a player’s career doing that.”
Vigneault said the 23-year-old Bruin from Halifax, who pestered and plagued Vancouver last June, could face vigilante retaliation if the NHL doesn’t do something.
“Some day he’s going to get it,” Vigneault said. “Somebody’s going to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and they’re going to hurt the kid because he plays to hurt players. In my mind, if the league doesn’t take care of it, somebody else will.”
The game – with fans eating breakfast in Vancouver – came alive with agitation, fights, casual brutality, all staples of last June’s Cup final. The Canucks also delivered what they could not last June in Boston: goals.
Emblematic was Henrik Sedin’s power-play goal to put Vancouver up 3-2 near the second-period buzzer, the first of the two decisive tallies on the Marchand major.
Sedin’s goal, a redirection of an Alex Edler slap shot, was the team captain’s retribution for Bruins thuggery in last year’s Cup final. The normally subdued centre thrust his fist and stick skyward at silenced Boston fans.
“I had a lot of emotions,” Sedin said.
The Canucks, often mocked for their perceived lack of brawn, held their own against a violent Bruins side; Vancouver outhit Boston 24-17 and had almost as many penalty minutes (52 compared with Boston’s 55). On the power play, Vancouver went four for 11 – all its goals in the 4-3 win – and shut out Boston on its seven power plays.
“We showed that we shouldn’t stand here after a lot of games and answer those questions [about toughness]” Sedin said.
The win bolsters the Canucks’ position near the top of the NHL standings, as of Sunday led by the New York Rangers. Vancouver is two points up on Boston, but the Bruins have played four fewer games.
“Let’s not kid ourselves here,” Julien said after Saturday’s game. “We’ve got two teams that don’t like each other, so what do you expect?”
The Canucks were, in the words of the Boston Herald, “their usual annoying selves. … Feel free to say that they’re still a bunch of losers.”
A lingering concern for Vancouver would be its lack of even-strength production against Boston goaltender Tim Thomas. The Canucks rank sixth in the NHL with a goals for-against ratio of 1.20 on even strength. The Canucks’ league-leading power play came to life after a slump of about a dozen games, but Boston’s three goals all came at even strength, extending the Bruins’ 5-on-5 dominance this year, a scoring ratio of 2.13.
“It does a lot for our confidence,” Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said of the win. “But if you walk around this dressing room, I don’t think you can really tell the difference between a win or a loss in here. We stay even keel.
“We’re not going to get to high from this,” added Bieksa, who had two assists. “We didn’t win the Stanley Cup. But we did win a big game and got two points in the standings.”