By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Apparently its news to the Vancouver Canucks that theyre flopping and diving their way through the Stanley Cup Final as the unquestioned villains in the typically hard core hockey series.
While its always been a grudge match when hockey clubs get within four games of raising the Cup over their heads, Vancouver has bitten, clawed, gouged, faked, flopped and cheap-shotted their way to a 3-2 lead over the Bruins in the finals headed into Monday nights potentially decisive Game 6 at TD Garden.
Theres little question the Canucks have played well at home, but they still havent been nearly as overpowering as their talent would have indicated headed into the series against the Bruins. That lower level of execution -- in areas like a 1-for-22 power play and only two points from the Sedin twins in the series -- has forced a handful of Canucks to operate outside the lines of acceptable behavior in the Cup Final while performing in front of a national audience. Their actions have led many to attach to the Canucks the label of most hated team in hockey.
The Bruins werent going there.
Sometimes guys are trying to play the head games and you just cant worry about that, said Patrice Bergeron. Its part of the sport. You just have to worry about what you can control.
The Bruins certainly havent been angels either. Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic attempted to jam their fingers into the face of Maxim Lapierre and Alex Burrows -- but nearly every single Bs action has been a reaction to the Canucks.
Burrows has been one of the key offenders dating all the way back to he gnawed on Bergerons gloved index finger in Game 1. He didn't do anything for his reputation in Boston when he dove on a face-off in Game 5 that led to an embellishment call.
The Canucks troublemaker bristled at being called hated or a villain during the Cup Final, but if the tag fits, youve got to wear it.
I could care less, to be honest with you. Were one win away from achieving our goal and we just want to go out tomorrow night and get it, said Burrows, who has been very good in the series, including a three-point game in a 3-2 Game 2 victory in Vancouver. Who says that? I dont know where that comes from, honestly, so its tough for me to comment on.
I know we have a lot of good fans in Vancouver, and thats all that we care about. Its not my mindset to rub it in on anybody. Its just my mission to get in there and get ready to play while trying to win it tomorrow night.
While it's impossible to prove the Canucks are the most hated, and probably a bit hyperbolic given some of the truly bad eggs that have won the Stanley Cup in the history of the NHLs playoffs, there is clearly an anti-Canucks sentiment brewing in the hockey community that goes way, way beyond Bostons natural dislike for their Stanley Cup rivals.
There is something there, but Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa is clearly not feeling it, seeing it or acknowledging it. In fact, in Bieksas whimsical world, the entire nation of Canada is pulling for the Canucks against the Boston Bruins despite many protestations from hockey fans across Canada.
I dont think were in the villain role. I really dont, said Bieksa. There are a few people that dont like the way we play, but usually when you win people dont like that. I know when we played Chicago last year I dont remember too many people saying anything nice about them but Im pretty sure if you asked them they couldnt care less.
We dont feel like villains. We feel like we have all of Canada cheering for us and thats an entire country. So how can you be a villain when a whole country is cheering for you?
Perhaps someone should break it to Bieksa that there are large contingents in Calgary and Edmonton that definitely are not pulling for the Canucks, and plenty across Canada in every NHL outpost that dont respect the way Vancouver has behaved on the games biggest stage. Its a fallacy to begin with that all of Canada suddenly drops allegiances and begins blindly cheering for whatever Great White North team manages to drag themselves into the final seven game series.
Clearly Bieksa and Burrows are correct when they say that nobody likes a favorite in a series like the Cup Final, and that was Vancouvers fate against the Bruins.
But theres a veritable chasm between being a favorite and being a villain, and its something Vancouver wont be able to escape after some truly suspect actions in their first Cup go-round.