One of the most hated players in hockey is learning to fight his own battles. Vancouver’s Max Lapierre has dropped the gloves twice already this season, plus one more time in the preseason.
He’s still got a few things to work on once the gloves hit the ice, but his teammates have taken notice of his willingness to step into the ring.
“He had a great playoffs for us last year but he took a little bit of heat over the summer for some of his actions,” Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa told the Vancouver Province. “He comes back this year, and now he’s standing up to people. He’s already got three fights under his belt.”
The “heat” Bieksa is referring to is likely related to Lapierre’s “I’m going to put my fingers in your face because Alex Burrows bit you” taunting of Patrice Bergeron in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final.
It was a move that ended up backfiring for the Canucks when the Bruins changed the momentum of the series in Game 3 and punctuated it with some finger taunts of their own.
Lapierre was also criticized for embellishing on this play.
All that stuff distracted from the fact Lapierre played above and beyond expectations in the playoffs, filling in admirably at center for the injured Manny Malhotra on Vancouver’s third line.
Lapierre has also been one of the Canucks’ most noticeable forwards in 2011-12, and for all the right reasons.
“The knock on him before was that he’d skate away and now, he’s going to stand up for himself and his teammates,” said Bieksa. “On top of that, this guy is a great hockey player. He can make plays, he can protect the puck. He had five breakaways the other night and I joked around I could have been back to even on the plus-minus if he scored on them all.”
Lapierre has three goals and two assists in Vancouver’s first 12 games while centering a much-improved fourth line.