It was everything fans wanted and everything they could ask for. Unfortunately, it was just a few months too late.
Do you get the sense that the Vancouver Canucks learned from their lack of response following Mike Matheson’s hit on Elias Pettersson? Do you think they took something away from their fans who were just as angry at them for not sticking up for a fallen teammate as they were with Matheson and his hit on Pettersson?
This young Canucks roster is slowly learning from their mistakes and experiences. On Tuesday night vs. Tampa Bay that newly learned lesson was on full display.
Nobody expected the Canucks to pull out a win against the eventual 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. I think the average fan was hoping for a fun, high-tempo game. A nice display of speed and skill and maybe a couple nice goals featuring guys named Brock, Elias or all those flashy guys on Tampa Bay.
Instead, the fans were treated to a dust-up. A brouhaha. A donnybrook! Old time hockey. But the fights weren’t staged, the emotions were genuine, and unfortunately, some of the violence was senseless.
The High Hit
Dannick Martel (…who?) was playing just his second game of the season. Within less than forty minutes, while still stinking of the American Hockey League, he was able to get a really nice assist on Cedric Paquette’s 8th goal of the season. He was also able to take Troy Stecher out of the game with a high hit to the head. Was it in response to Antoine Roussel’s fight with Yanni Gourde? Roussel did serve an additional roughing penalty along with the fight, so perhaps the Bolts felt the fight wasn’t exactly warranted.
Martel was given a two-minute interference penalty. Troy Stecher left the game and did not return. Precisely 2:05 after the hit, Jake Virtanen and Erik Gudbranson were after Martel with a thirst for retribution, and they were wasting no time getting it. The Canucks didn’t back down. They fought. They threw their weight around and let it be very well known to everyone in Rogers Arena on Tuesday night that they were not happy with what just happened.
Players Policing Themselves
The high hit from Martel was clearly missed by the referees. Hockey is a fast game, and for the most part, the NHL referees do a fantastic job. But those referees missing the headshot on Troy Stecher changed the entire dynamic of the game. It forced the players to police the game themselves, and boy did they ever.
Part of me is glad the referees didn’t catch that high hit and left Martel in the game. Watching the Vancouver Canucks come together to stand up for their teammate was an absolute joy to watch. After that incident in Florida against the Panthers, I worried the Canucks did not have that rough side to them, but even more alarming to me was the fact that they wouldn’t stand up for their teammates. All that changed Tuesday night.
If the NHL Department of Player Safety deems the hit dangerous and suspendable, they will act accordingly and swiftly. In the meantime, in the eyes of fans and the other 30 NHL teams, the Canucks don’t look timid or delicate, they provided the exact response needed following those incidents on Tuesday night. If a player targets your teammate in the head, you respond. If they take a run at your leading scoring rookie sensation, you respond. That’s what Brock Boeser did. That’s what the entire Canucks roster did.
The team banded together as one against the Bolts. Standing up for Troy Stecher. Standing up for Elias Pettersson. This is an experience the team can learn so much from and grow bonds together that could last for years to come.
(Finally) Being Tough To Play Against
It’s been beaten like a dead horse, but we must revisit it.
In the summer, Jim Benning made it clear he wanted the Canucks to be hard to play against. He wanted a team that wouldn’t roll over or be okay losing. He wanted a team of hardened veterans who could play the game with skill and speed and protect the kids.
Roussel has provided a fantastic element to the Canucks game as of late. Flanking Bo Horvat the past few games, he has shown some great skill and effort on the forecheck, contributing assists in the last two games and really starting to fit in well on this young Canucks roster.
Regardless of how many zeros are on his pay cheques every other week, Antoine Roussel did exactly what he was brought to Vancouver to do: stand up for the younger players, add energy and that rough side to the team, and to not back down from adversity.
Not only that, he was a thorn in the Bolts’ side all night. If there was ever a game for a shit disturber like Roussel to thrive in, Tuesday night in Vancouver was THE game!