By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON In the words of John McEnroe, the hockey gods cannot be serious!
The Vancouver Canucks have become the prat-falling stars of their own sitcom entitled Hockey Players Behaving Badly during the first five games of the Stanley Cup Finals this summer.
In doing so, Alain Vigneaults squad has claimed the mantle as the most reviled team in the NHL.
That said, they also stand just 60 minutes away from the hunched-over Maxim Lapierre, the finger-chompingAlex Burrows, and the self-imagined godfather of modern goaltending technique, Roberto Luongo, celebrating a Stanley Cup win on the TD Garden ice Monday night.
With the demons and ghosts of the Canadiens and Flyers banished for the time being, Luongo jumping for joy at the final buzzer in Boston would be Bruins Nation's worst nightmare come true after his continued jabs at Tim Thomas.
It doesnt seem right and it doesnt seem fair the Canucks could possibly clinch it all in Boston after earning themselves the distinction as theNHL team everybody loves to hate.
But life in the NHL certainly isnt fair, is it?
Burrows has the skill to play on a line with twoof the best hockey players in the world, but he also chose to bite one of the most gentlemanly players in the game in Patrice Bergeron. He's continued his act by flipping and flopping throughout the series, and faking a fallduring a faceoff in Game 5 that led to an embellishment penalty. At least in Burrows' case, the referees have started to catch on to his pestering ways and ignore the head snaps and dives that come far too often.
Lapierre mocked the league and the refs by dangling his gloved fingers in front of Bergerons face in the game following Burrows' bitein Vancouver. That was nothing compared to acting as if his spleen was ruptured in Game 5 followinga love tap from Zdeno Chara behind the Boston net in the second period.
Lapierre was doubled over veering toward the bench while carefully skating right past the refs hoping to garner a call with his thespian histrionics. Once again the refs weren't buying what the Canucks were selling.
Its no coincidence Dallas Stars gritty forward Krys Barch tweeted a rhetorical question earlier in the series: Barch wanted to know ifLapierre had any man in him at all. This from a player with no dog in the fight during the Stanley Cup Finals. In fact, Barch had hisface rearranged by the Bruins during the Boston-Dallas fight night in the regular season.Lapierreis a player ushered out of Montreal because his Habs teammates were tired of his unwillingness to fight his own battles, and that has sullied his rep across the league. Needless to say the referees are on to both Lapierre and Burrows, and none of their odes to adying fish have led to Bruins penalties since early onin the series.
The attitude of the on-ice officials basically confirms much of the reputation the Canucks have earned from national media, fans and those catching their hockey vaudeville act for the first extended viewing this season. The Canucks are the best team in the NHL in terms of stats and talent, but they are possibly the worst when it comes to playing with honor.
But, then again, none of that seems to matter at this point.
The hockey gods have seen fit to make Raffi Torres who clobbered Brent Seabrook with a vicious flying elbow to the head in the first round of the playoffs the game-winning hero in the first Vancouver win.
The biting, diving, despicable Burrows took the honors with the game-winner in the second of the series and the faking, finger-dangling Lapierre, along with the clearly insecure Luongo, took hold as the latest Canucks heroes in the series with Vancouver up 3-2 in the series headed into Game 6 in Boston.
The latest episode in the Vancouver saga hasLuongo -- prone to going for serene walks along the seawall with his headphones on and hoodie tied tight around his head while gettinghis mind rightfor game night -- claiming he has pumped the tires of Tim Thomas throughout the series.Not sure what planet criticizing another goalie in victory counts as pumping people's tires.
"Ive been pumping his tires all series, said Luongo to a group of reporters on Saturday. I havent heard him say anything nice about me.
Apparently Luongo was looking for a pat on the back and an "attaboy" from his rival goaltender after claiming he would have stopped the third period game-winner in Game 5 Friday night. There seems to be a pattern developing: Luongo needs to hear complimentarythings about himself in order to feel comfortable and appreciated in the world of competitive sport.
The insecure need for acceptance and verbal bouquetsbelied Luongo's haughty attitude and his criticisms of Thomas' style and technique.
Luongo's apologists will say his feelings have been hurt because of criticism he's playing too deep in his net. Most would say there's no place for hurt feelings in the Stanley Cup Finals.
This isnt about Hansel and Gretel Sedin for all those looking for a gender-neutral fun pet name for the Vancouver wonder twins failing to man up in a series that's testing their toughness and ability to scrapethrough determined defenders ready to battle.
The Sedins play a clean game aside from a little too much time curled up in the fetal position lying in Thomas crease, and they may still factor into the series.
This isnt about Ryan Kesler, either. The Vancouver center has played courageously through an injury that appeared to be exacerbated by a punishing Johnny Boychuk hit at the beginning of Game 2. He hasnt been the ultimate X-Factorhe was against the Blackhawks and Sharks, but hes still playing hockey the right way.
Its not even about the reprehensible, predatory hit Aaron Rome slapped on Nathan Horton that knocked one of Bostons best players out of the series, and turned the cheap shot defenseman into a Vancouver martyr with Free Rome signs popping up in Vancouver after his four-game suspension.
This is about a small group ofVancouver players that dishonor the game of hockey and have transformed nearly everyone else in the NHL into Boston Bruins fans for another week of Cup Finals games. They are literally despised in many corners of the NHL in what should be a crowning moment for the franchise's first potential Stanley Cup.
The Canucks may win the Cup, and they may even celebrate on the Garden ice Monday. Or they might just crumble like a spineless hockey team visibly afraid to play in a hostile atmosphere on the road.
One thing is certain: Theyll never be able to wipe away the embarrassing stain their on-ice comportment has left across the NHL in the leagues showcase event. That will be the villainous, cowardly legacy of the Canucks, win or lose.