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Something to Cry About

Unexpected? That's apparently what the Canucks thought too.

Last night the Sharks won.  I can’t tell, being biased, if the Canucks ever dominated play in Games 1 or 2 the way the Sharks dominated the start of Game 3.  Either way, it was impressive.

The penalty clock ran backwards compared to the last game.  In Game 2, the Sharks had to kill nine penalties, to the Canucks three.  Unless I am mistaken, the Sharks did not injure anyone in that game.  In Game 3, the Sharks took five penalties, including a nearly crippling five minute major in the third period, and back to back 5 on 3s.  The Canucks took nine.  The Canucks also lost two players to injury.  One could make the bleak argument that if you cry foul too often, someone will eventually give you something to cry about.

I don’t want the Canucks to get hurt.  I don’t want anyone hurt.  I do want everyone to stand up and play the game without any more shenanigans.

Today Jamie McGinn has a phone call with the NHL Review Committee.  The main talking point is whether or not to suspend McGinn for his hit on Aaron Rome last night.  Maybe it has already been decided, but I’m avoiding Twitter so I can watch the Bruins @ Tampa Bay, Game 4 without spoilers.

Neither coach argued with the call.  This could well be gamesmanship on McLellan’s part. Whining about calls is Vigneault’s thing.  McLellan has taken the high road pretty consistently in his post-gamers.

Jamie McGinn was quick to state on camera and on Twitter that he never means to injure anyone.  Obviously he means severely injure them, because you can assume that if you throw your body against someone else and mush them into a wall they will sustain some sort of injury.  Bruises count.

According to reports, McGinn injured two players last night.  Ehrhoff went out with a shoulder injury, Rome is listed as having a concussion.  There is little doubt that McGinn was hitting with conviction.

I would also argue that he was hitting with some considerable care.  I did not study the Ehrhoff hit very closely but the fact that the injury is to his shoulder tells me he was hit in the shoulder. Shoulders are fair game in hockey.

As for the Rome hit, Rome did end up with his face in the glass.  He saw McGinn coming.  He responded by turning away and making himself vulnerable.  Additionally, from most camera angles, the initial point of contact was with McGinn’s hip, and the brunt of the hit was to the back of Rome’s shoulder.

At the moment of contact, Rome was partly bent over, lowering his head and shoulders.  Had he been even a little more upright, he might have been able to better protect his head.  He was also facing the glass.  This in itself does not prevent him from bracing for a hit, but it makes it harder to know when the hit is coming, unless you look at the reflection in the glass.

I don’t know if he did any of that.  He looked fairly unprepared to be hit.

Why would that be?  Why would McGinn’s style of play be so surprising for Canucks defensemen?  Don’t they hit people in the NHL?  I thought they did.

Are we supposed to believe that McGinn is just that much bigger, stronger, he just hits harder than any other player the Canucks have ever encountered?  Do NHL players hit gently because of the new rules?

I do not understand.

Some time ago, I theorized that the new headshot rule might result in the following scenario:

If I take “blind side” to mean “out of your field of vision,” a  ban would almost have to lead to a no contact game.  All a player has to do, to avoid being hit, is make sure he can’t see anyone. I wouldn’t blame him.  While the possibility of a new, balletic variety of hockey is intriguing, I don’t think the NHL or its audience is ready for that. Still, it might be cool. -The Blind Side of the Moon?

I don’t think anyone told McGinn the game had already changed this way.  He never took ballet.  On the other hand, to evolve into the preposterous thing described above, there would be a learning curve.  There would first be players setting themselves up for blindside hits, and other players hitting them anyway.  The hitters would get suspended and be sent to dance class.  A gruesome birth indeed for Men’s Stick Wielding Ice Ballet.

I know that neither of McGinn’s hits are being reviewed under the blindside head shot rule, but the same theory still applies.

Douglas Murray says he gets hit from behind all the time, but he protects himself.  Douglas Murray holds his brain in high regard.  But not all hockey players are geniuses.  Maybe a goodly number are willing to brain themselves when they could avoid it.

Injury cannot always be avoided.  A perfectly clean hit can still result in a severe injury.  But that’s no excuse to not try to protect yourself. McGinn is not a stealthy player.  He doesn’t lurk around behind the net and appear out of nowhere.  He is not the hitting version of Danny Briere.  Quite the opposite.

Desi and Ginner got a lot of space from the Canucks.  At times, the Canucks had about as much success handling them as if they were a pair of rhinos storming around the ice.  At times they seemed that big and unstoppable.  This created quite a stir among Sharks fans.  The Sharks are in dire need of some help from their third and fourth lines.  Handing Mayers the reins to a pair of big, enthusiastic Woostah teammates appeared to be a good solution, until the penalties began to roll in.

So on the one hand, the Canucks seemed acutely aware of these new guys.  On the other, they acted like they didn’t even know they were there.  Something doesn’t add up, even if you are really good at math.

Even with the penalties, I would still want them out there.  When the Canucks are not throwing their bodies in their path, they are getting out of the way, giving them space.

Like Eager, McGinn presents the Canucks with an easy way to get power plays.  They can use his energy against him.  Unlike Eager, drawing a penalty from McGinn is likely to come at a high cost.  Obviously the Canucks are willing to pay the price.  I don’t know how many players they have left to spare.  Their scratches list is a lot shorter than the Sharks list.

I do believe that McGinn was playing within the boundaries of the rules.  But he may not have a subtler understanding of NHL nuances, the unwritten rules that say players will intentionally put themselves in harm’s way.  Maybe it isn’t even intentional anymore.  Maybe it’s just habit, an expectation that no one will hit you really that hard, since so many suspensions are based on results, not intent or act.

When your veteran captain is suspended for multiple games because he stood too hard in the wrong place and someone was concussed after running into him, well, how the hell is anyone supposed to know where the line is?

M-A Bergeron did not get suspended for coming off the bench during a change and hitting David Krejci.  He did the same thing Thornton did to Perron: hit a player who wasn’t looking where he was going.  Except MAB actually moved into Krejci and did hit him.  He didn’t just stand in his way.  He did pull up at the last moment, he didn’t take Krejci’s head off.  I’m not saying MAB was trying to kill anyone.  But he certainly did more than Thornton did.

When the rules get all bassackwards like that, it is hard for anyone to learn them, except by playing.  In the playoffs, playing time is at a premium.  McLellan may be wise to keep McGinn out, now that he has been marked as someone who doesn’t know you aren’t supposed to really hit that hard, not in the NHL anyway.

On the bright side, this just in:


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