Coming into game 3 on Monday night, Tim Thomas had something to prove. He may have been able to dismiss some queries as to whether he should shift his strategies in tending the goal. Even if he ‘doesn’t care’ what others say or think about his play, he still had to come up with some sort of stellar performance yesterday. As we all know by now, that’s exactly what he did.
As for Vancouver, coming into game 3, at least; they’d been able to squeeze out two wins at home that were both nothing short of miraculous. With almost the entire city behind them, just waiting to go totally pucking ape-shit, the Canucks took games one and two with 1) seconds remaining, and 2) seconds into sudden death. Vancouver fans are indeed waiting to completely lose it.
There seems to be no doubt in any fan’s mind that Vancouver will take the cup this year. Considering the team’s breakdown in play and composure in the dying minutes of last night’s game, they’d better come out focused on Wednesday. Not only focused, they’ll have to be downright dominant. Canucks fans were still in good spirits after their team’s slaughtering, but I doubt they can handle two more of those. As long as your team still has the edge in the series, as the Canucks do, it’s easy to dismiss such a blatant abortion of sportsmanship and general competitive play.
If Vancouver loses tomorrow, as they very well could, I imagine fans will still be confident, and even more excited that the series will have suddenly become close. But if they lose game 5, at home, a sense of terminal dread is almost certainly going to fall on this city. But we’ll get into all that later, let’s take a look at this game.
The hit. It’s unavoidable to talk about. You saw it, I saw it…it was pretty shitty. Coming down centre ice on a two-man rush, Nathan Horton passed the puck off to the wing (I think he passed it to Lucic, but I seem unable to confirm this), and 0.75 seconds later, was absolutely annihilated by Aaron Rome.
This hit was nothing short of horrific. Some will argue that it was a blind-side hit, but that’s foolish. Rome kept his feet on the ice, connected solidly with the shoulder, and put Horton down like a stray dog.
Considering it was an open ice hit, happening right at the blueline, the blind-side rule doesn’t even factor in. The only thing wrong with this hit, is that it happened a quarter of a second too late. Watching the hit again, it’s seems like it was only a beat too late…one, and…CRASH! I sort of feel sorry for Rome. In such an intense situation, those are the kind of hits you want to lay out in the first few minutes of the game. But his timing was off. There’s absolutely no denying that is was a late hit, and the devastating consequences will be felt for the remainder of this series.
Nathan Horton, as of this writing, will not return to the Bruins lineup this playoff season. He was watching the puck, and then was bulldozed (at least in his perspective) from nowhere. The second his crushed bones hit the ice five minutes into game 3, everyone watching knew he was pucked up.
The only motions coming from Horton’s body after he was demolished were: a) the motion of his chest desperately struggling to take in oxygen, and b) his left arm. The raised arm seems like such a symbolic gesture. Could it have been his undying devotion to keep playing the game? Just a last ditch effort, or rather a reflex, to get up. But that was all he could muster: hopelessly raising his left arm as either a call for help, or an ill-fated attempt to stand. I can get up, I can get up…I…I…I can’t breathe.
That’s how Monday went for ole’ Nate. There was a look of focused panic in his eyes after the hit. Forcing yourself to stay calm when you can’t move or breathe is tough, and that’s what Nathan Horton was going through at twenty minutes past five o’clock last night. His left arm raised to the heavens, suspended in mid-air, hoping to snatch back those last few seconds before the hit. He, unfortunately, will no longer be a factor (at least not tangibly) in the Bruins’ 2011 cup run.
Neither will Aaron Rome, for that matter. He’s been suspended for 4 games, meaning he won’t be skating competitively unless this series goes to seven. 4 games sounds like a lot. In times of doubt, I always turn to Canadian television’s version of the everyday hockey dad, Bob Mackenzie. According to Bob, “the NHL has very strict rules regarding what is and isn’t considered a late hit.”
That strict guideline is set at ½ a second after the puck leaves the victim’s stick. “We’ve (TSN analysts) have looked very closely at this hit…[it] happened 0.75 seconds after Horton passed the puck.” The boys from TSN all agreed that the Rome hit merited a suspension, but nearly all of the panelists agreed it should be no more than 2 games. Well, the NHL didn’t agree, and gave him four. Following strictly mathematical logic, that’s 1 game for every 0.06 seconds past the half second threshold.
We can argue all day and night over whether or not this is a fair suspension, and I’m sure many sports journalists will be paid handsomely to do this. I, unfortunately am not one of them. There’s nothing any of us can do that will cause the League to go back their decision. So let’s leave it at that.
Following that hit, both Thomas and Luongo went save for save throughout the first period. The rest of the first went over as a hard-fought, clean battle.
I missed most of the second period. This is pretty much where Boston took control of the game. The Canucks still outshot the Bruins 16-14 in the period. But as I wrestled with Vancouver’s transit system, Boston steadily pummeled the Canucks’ confidence. First by scoring (ominously enough) 11 seconds into the second.
They did again 3 minutes later, and when Brad Marchant scored a beautifully unassisted short-handed goal, I can only assume that many minds began shifting their thoughts towards the inevitable butchering that was to come. I’m sure nobody could have known just how badly the game would turn for Vancouver.
I’d like to make one thing clear: I absolutely loathe the 2011 incarnation of the Boston Bruins. I hate that Mark Recchi won’t quit, and I hope Zdano Chara trips over his own skates and breaks his face on a turnbuckle. This is mostly due to fact that I am a passionate supporter of the Montreal Canadians. But I also despise Tim Thomas, and this has nothing to do with my fanaticism for the Habs.
Tim Thomas, in my mind, is as dull as the colour beige. He follows the fundamental rules of goaltending, and as such, makes every save seem unimpressive. He’s soft-spoken, seems polite enough, and generally acts like a humble, aging man who’s genuinely glad to be able to make a living playing goalie. Although these qualities might make up a fine individual, as a person, these are not characteristics I look for in hockey players. Plus, he’s a damned ginger.
But even I can’t deny that that squirrely shithead was an absolute WARRIOR last night. I hold onto the above-mentioned conviction passionately. But I couldn’t help but feel complete and total admiration for Tim Tam last night. His hit on Henrik Sedin completely baffled me. It seemed to go against his entire style of play. Not only did he stand on his head and shut the Canucks down at nearly every opportunity, his hit justified the aggressive player-chasing that he’d been lambasted for just 48 hours prior.
After the utter shellacking of half the Sedin-duo, I respected the mortal shit out of Tim Tam. Goalies are given a very small amount of space to call their own on the ice, and very large amount of responsibility to guard that space. Thomas was, to me at least, a Spartan in the third period of game 3. A selfless warrior who would stop at nothing to make sure his boys won. Even when the puck wasn’t in his end, Thomas would skulk around the ice with all the majesty and impending dread of some mythological creature that doesn’t come to mind at the moment; effortlessly gliding over his terrain, guarding his team’s most prized possession: the virgin mesh of the goal.
Almost as soon as I began to look at these hockey players like legendary gods, ruthlessly battling to bring a symbolic silver cup to the community they’re representing, they began acting like a bunch of tantrum-throwing children. It all seemed so epic there so a second. Vancouver had a couple of good chances, but everything deteriorated when Burrows slashed Thomas on the hand. None other than Milan Lucic came ‘round to slap Burrows like the little bitch he was. While he was on his knees too! At this point in the proceedings, I was certain there would be a throwdown of biblical proportions. You just don’t let a team member get humiliated the way Burrows did. But nothing happened. At least not right away, when it should have. Instead, all skaters on the ice paired up with a member of the opposing team and did a little waltz for the crowd. I believe this is where the Canucks went horribly wrong.
In a Stanley Cup final that is becoming more and more bitter and desperate by the minute, your team’s integrity is almost as important as the endless skating drills it took to get here. Just like your dad used to say when you were a kid, “[Insert your full name here], you should never start a fight. If I get a call from your school and find out that you’ve been picking fights, I’ll make you wish you hadn’t even looked at the kid. BUT, just like not picking on people for no reason is important, it’s even more important not to let anyone push you around. You have to stand up for yourself, even if you know you’ll get beaten up. Because if you never stand up for yourself, people will push you around and take advantage of you for the rest of your life.”
The Canucks let themselves get pushed around by the Boston Bruins.
It occurred to me a few seconds after Lucic gave Burrows a couple of love taps to the face, that Vancouver doesn’t even have anyone who’s capable of stepping up to the plate in such a situation. I expected Bieksa to come barreling out of nowhere and make an honest effort to turn Lucic’s face into mush. I could have respected that. Instead, everyone seemed content to let things stay the way they were. It was a couple of minutes later that Kesler and Seidenberg beaked each other off all the way down the ice, then threw their helmets and gloves to the ice to take part in one of the most pathetic attempts at playoff fighting in recent memory.
The whole spectacle reminded me of WWE Monday Night RAW. Everyone was expecting it to go down, and I feel like Kesler and Seidenberg took part simply because it was expected of them. The fight immediately fell to the ground, and Kesler finished by pushing Seidenberg, who was already laying on the ice; just like a bitter 3rd grader would have done after a pitiful schoolyard brawl.
After that, the Canucks simply got embarrassed.
Now we’re left to imagine what Vancouver will come out with on Wednesday night. Boston knows that they’re still 1 game behind. They also know that they’ve dealt a devastating blow to the Canucks confidence, and as mentioned earlier, their integrity as a team. Vancouver will, no doubt, try to revert back to the style of play that got them where they are today. Sports shows across the country will be filled with players saying that “we just need to put this game behind us and come out strong on Wednesday.” Boston, on the hand, will “try to carry this momentum into the next game.”
So what’s going to happen Wednesday night? Vancouver will try to forget being humiliated so thoroughly, and Boston will do their best to remind them. Every moment of every game is absolutely crucial from this point on. If Boston tries to push the Canucks around, Vancouver must fight back; either with punches, or with bone-crushing, legal hits. If they don’t stand their ground, proudly and united, the Bruins will continue to bully them for the rest of the Stanley Cup finals. Just like papa said.oH