It was like watching a WWE Royal Rumble when the Kings and “Burrard Street Bullies” went at it on Monday. By now, you have seen, heard and debated all of the incidents that took place, so I won’t rehash each one in detail here.
Was the game a moral victory? What exactly constitutes a “moral victory” anyway? Do we care?
What I would like to focus on is the fact that the Canucks have now officially taken on the personality of their new coach, John Tortorella. And I love it.
Last year, I did not love this team. I mean, I desperately wanted them to win and I have cheered for them (and will continue to cheer for them) to the bitter end. But lets be honest, last year’s team was not a team full of passion and did not wear their heart on their sleeve. Last year’s team looked complacent and without energy on many nights.
This year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks is much different.
Despite the fact that most of the team (and all of its core) isn’t new, this is a ‘new’ team. The Sedins kill penalties now, they block shots and they throw bodychecks too.
I’m not the biggest proponent of fighting in hockey (I enjoy the occasional bout, but I would be fine if they got rid of it too), but it sure is an effective way to show that you care. Tom Sestito leads the league in fights (12). The team as a whole actually has one fewer fight than they did all of last year, but it’s not just the role players involved in them this year. Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Zack Kassian all have three fights this year. Last season, Zack Kassian was the only non-4th liner to have more than 2 fights.
Fighting isn’t everything of course. The entire team plays with more grit, more heart and more desire than we have seen in years, and John Tortorella won’t let them play any other way.
In the Monday night battle at Staples Center, you could almost see every player on the bench gain 2 inches of height and 20 pounds of muscle with every gritty/tough play made by their teammates on the ice. That sort of stuff shouldn’t matter, but it does. It’s the same reason why some of the smaller players on the Kings, Bruins and Blues have such a swagger. It’s like that small kid in school who acts tough, because he has a lot of tough friends.
This doesn’t mean that the team is necessarily better of course. Vancouver currently has 57 points in 47 games. Last year they had 59 points in 48 games (although if they still played in the Northwest Division, they almost certainly would have more points this year). I don’t think this is a team built to win a Stanley Cup this season, but they can still be one of the top teams in the NHL, especially if they find a way to fix their ailing power play.
But who cares? Watching the Canucks is fun again. They’re a team. Win or lose, this is a team I’m proud of.
We are all Tortorella.