Mark Recchi, Maxim Lapierre

Vancouver Canucks bristle at ‘villain’ title

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While some outlets have hammered on the storyline a bit more than others, it seems like the consensus is that the Vancouver Canucks are the “bad guys” of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. (At least for people who enjoy the practice of adopting villains and heroes for sporting events in this age.)

That’s not to say that the Boston Bruins are being fitted for a halo anytime soon. Tim Thomas’ great play generates comparisons to the work of Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy, but his unfiltered rage also reminded some of the fury of Billy Smith or Ron Hextall. Brad Marchand has the tendency to get under peoples’ skin and the team occasionally earns back its historical nickname of the “Big, Bad Bruins.” (See: their brawl-filled regular season game against the smallish Montreal Canadiens.)

All of that aside, the conventional wisdom is that the Canucks aren’t exactly the darling of unbiased observers. Antics highlighted by Aaron Rome’s hit and Alexandre Burrows bite – not to mention the claims of diving, which may or may not be fair in the grand scheme of things – haven’t made Vancouver an adopted favorite among many fans.

The Canucks seem to bristle at the claims of villainy, as Joe Haggerty explains.

“I don’t think we’re in the villain role. I really don’t,” said Bieksa. “There are a few people that don’t like the way we play, but usually when you win people don’t like that. I know when we played Chicago last year I don’t remember too many people saying anything nice about them – but I’m pretty sure if you asked them they couldn’t care less.

“We don’t feel like villains. We feel like we have all of Canada cheering for us and that’s an entire country. So how can you be a villain when a whole country is cheering for you?”

It might be a stretch to say that all of Canada is rooting for the Canucks – one can assume that fans of division rivals such as the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames might be reluctant to cross that line – but it’s reasonable to think that many Canadians are pulling for them. It’s been 18 years since Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens became the last Canadian-based team to win a Stanley Cup, although the chalice obviously spends plenty of time north of the border either way.

However the rest of the hockey world feels, a Canucks Cup win would make them heroes in Vancouver and the surrounding areas. Something tells me they care a lot more about that designation than any media-fueled “villain” labels.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.