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.
Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’
Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.
The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.
He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)
But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.
“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.
“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”
Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.
Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.
Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.
As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.
At any rate it’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.
That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 28-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.
On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.