Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vancouver Plays Dirty, Beats Predators 3-1

In a contest that featured three questionable hits by the Canucks and more bad blood than a Hatfield-McCoy feud, the Vancouver defeated the Nashville Predators 3-1. The game featured a total of 70 penalty minutes between the two teams. The biggest problem was inconsistency in the officiating. There were a few real ticky-tac calls and several other instances on major infractions where there we no calls.

I am not one to complain about officiating because I feel that it will even out over the course of a season, but the Predators have been on the short end of the stick far too many times this season. Many calls are being made against the Predators by reputation instead of reality. Had Jordan Tootoo been the aggressor in any of the three calls discussed below, there would have been ejections and suspensions. The Canucks appeared to have a free pass on the hits that are routinely considered dirty.

The game was real chippy right from the start. The first penalty of the game at 4:14 went against Vancouver’s Rob Davidson for hooking and it wasn’t even close to being an infraction. At that point, my thoughts were in the other direction that the officials weren’t going to let them play.

At the 15:06 mark in the first with the game tied 1-1, all hell started breaking loose as can be seen it he above clip. Rob Davison hit Scotty Nichol near the Vancouver bench and a brawl ensued. Of the three questionable hits, this was the cleanest even though Scotty Nichol was forced to leave the game. Kevin Klein immediately took up for his teammate and Rich Peverly, who has never had an NHL fight went after Jason Jaffray.

In the second period things deteriorated rapidly at 5:19 when Alex Burrows left his feet and fore armed J P Dumont in a vicious open ice hit to the head. Jason Arnott took on a new personality and pounded on the cowardly Burrows who had dropped to a fetal position in order to avoid having to fight back. Check out the following video to form your own opinion. The whole altercation resulted in a seven minute power play for the Canucks and no penalty against Burrows who clearly should be suspended by the league.

The third major infraction occurred later in the second period at 17:24 when Ryan Kessler viciously boarded Shea Weber. This play could be the “poster child” of plays that the league is trying to eliminate near the boards and included a secondary shove of the head into the glass as icing on the cake. Kessler received a five minute boarding call while Weber received a double roughing for taking up for himself.

After the game, Preds coach Barry Trotz was as animated as I have ever seen on the league needing to take action against Burrows and Kessler. He was especially proud of Jason Arnott for taking action against Burrows when the officials did nothing. Trotz said on Arnott’s actions “He thought one of his teammates was hit in a dirty fashion and we’re going to stick up for each other. I don’t mind guys sticking together. It was a good response by Arnott. I couldn’t believe we ended up with a seven-minute penalty, but I don’t have any issues with Arnott sticking up for Dumont at all."

Trotz further stated "The league will handle it. I'm trying to protect my players. There's two things that's unwritten. Don't go after the head, and you don't go after the knees. I think in the hockey code, I think they crossed the line a few times."

Jason Arnott was equally adamant stating "I knew he left his feet. You see it on the replay, and he lands after he hits J.P. It's a blatant call, and there's two guys out there. I don't know how they didn't see that. Then the guy [Kesler] runs Webby [Shea Weber] from behind. He didn't need to hit Webby like that, from behind, run his head into the glass," Arnott said.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault saw things from a 180 degree different point of view stating "The only thing I found special with calls in the game we were not allowed to hit them. Every time we threw a good strong clean hit, there was a scrum after. It is part of the game. It was a physical game. They took offense to some of the hits we threw."

As far as the hockey action in the game itself, Highlights for the Predators included the seven minute penalty kill that had no stoppage in play for the full penalty and Radek Bonk’s goal in the first period ending his personal scoring drought. Dan Ellis’s return to goal after a four game absence was also positive as he stopped numerous scoring chances and 25 of 27 shots, receiving second star of the game honors.

The seven minute penalty kill appeared to be a turning point in the game as the meager crowd really rallied behind the team once it was over cheering with ever clear rising to a crescendo of a standing ovation once it was successfully completed. Unfortunately, the subsequent Weber and Philstrom penalties at the end of the second period continued to wear down the team and resulted in the game winning goal at :24 in the third on the carryover penalty on Philstrom. The “hockey gods” as Barry Trotz talks of often did not pay back Alex Burrows as he got the empty netter at 19:16 which was the final nail in the coffin for the Predators.

Bottom line, this game is a prime example of whether Colin Campbell and the league is going to be serious about putting an end to hits to the head, boarding and players leaving their feet. If they are too busy dealing with bad boy Sean Avery’s potty mouth to try to actually curb illegal hits that cause injury then they need to eliminate the instigation penalty and let the player police themselves.


Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

No comments: