There is a lot of debate among Canucks fans (not to mention the Red Wings faithful) over a 15-second stretch of hockey during the third period of the Vancouver-Detroit game on Wednesday night. Now the actual action lasted much longer than the 15 ticks that elapsed off of the game clock, but that doesn’t change the fact a lot happened in a very short time. Here’s my take:
THE KRONWALL HIT
For the most part, I don’t have a problem with Niklas Kronwall’s check on Ryan Kesler. Kronwall caught Kesler with one of his trademark hits. He made the forward think he was heading back to defend and as soon as the Kesler looked down to locate the puck; Kronwall pounced and delivered the devastating blow. I know the video shows that his feet were off the ground when he made contact, but that’s the case with almost any big hit. Kronwall was off the ice for a moment before making contact and Canucks Nation is upset about it. Compounding the fan’s anger was the fact that Kesler received the only penalty of the skirmish that followed as he tried to engage Kronwall in a fight after picking himself off the ice. After the game Kesler said he didn’t think the hit was dirty, and Kronwall admitted that if indeed he did leave his feet that he would be getting a call from Sheriff Shanny. Overall, advantage Detroit.
Moments after Kesler left the ice for roughing the Canucks broke in shorthanded on Jimmy Howard. Jannik Hansen had a step on Henrik Zetterberg and when he tried to cut in on goal he lost an edge and plowed into Howard leaving the Wing’s goaltender defenseless and unable to stop Alex Edler as he rifled in the rebound. It was a backbreaking goal for Detroit and Howard was hot. He went after Hansen delivering a blocker to the bucket. The Red Wings were upset the goal stood as they felt Howard was shoved into the net by Hansen — even if Zetterberg applied some pressure to the Dane’s back. The Canucks were upset that Howard was not given a roughing penalty so soon after Kesler was sent to the box for a lesser offence. But really, if you’re a Vancouver fan, you’d much rather have the goal stand than a no-goal call and an ensuing power play. No? So in the end, advantage Vancouver.
Of bigger concern to the Canucks right now is their inability to draw penalties. They are one of the most-skilled, fastest, highest-scoring teams in the league, and yet they haven’t been able to force teams to take penalties of late. Over the last four games, Vancouver has been awarded more than one power play just once. Against Detroit, Vancouver’s top-ranked power-play unit did not even see the ice. Canucks fans will say it’s a conspiracy, but I’m going to need a bigger sample size to make up my mind. One thing is clear, though: the Canucks rarely get the benefit of the doubt. Some will say they made their own bed if that is the case as they claim the Canucks are divers. They are trying to shed the label of a team that embellishes, but clearly there is still more work to be done.
LAST FOUR GAMES PP PK
DEC 15 @ CAROLINA 0-1 5-6
DEC 17 @ TORONTO 0-1 0-1
DEC 19 VS MINNESOTA 2-3 1-1
DEC 21 VS DETROIT 0-0 4-4
Finally, the whole team toughness/enforcer debate has reared its head again. It was hotly discussed earlier in the season when Marc Methot ran Henrik Sedin from behind and really resurfaced after the Ottawa game because Chris Neil was targeting the Sedins and Alex Burrows. Let’s get something straight. The Canucks are not going to go out and get a tough guy. Mike Gillis does not want to waste a roster spot on someone who only plays a couple minutes a night (insert Cody Hodgson joke here). I found it humorous last week that while I was doing a story on whether the Canucks needed an enforcer –our Toronto reporter was wondering why the Leafs were wasting their time employing Rosehill and Orr. It’s a fine line indeed. My feeling is that Gillis will (or has been) kicking the tires for a replacement for Aaron Volpatti. Someone who may not necessarily be considered a big-time deterrent but instead someone that will fight when needed, stick up for teammates, and put an end to foolishness on the ice if need be.