VANCOUVER -- Just another game, eh?
As if brought back in time to June 2011, the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks rekindled their rivalry without any hesitation Saturday night before a Rogers Arena crowd that was buzzing like it hasn't all season.
Sadly, what stole the spotlight was Brad Marchand 's antics, which is too bad on a couple of levels.
First, because the focus should be on the Canucks extending their winning streak to seven games.
Second, because the Bruins are a classy organization led by a stand-up people in Cam Neely, Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien, and when Marchand mockingly kissed his Cup ring finger a few times to get under the skin of Canucks players and also kissed a replica of the Stanley Cup to mock the fans, it did nothing but hurt his own team.
I'm a big fan of Marchand as a player, and in fact, Saturday night he had some terrific shifts, but when he's doing stuff like that, it brings him down. It's silly, and it's uncalled for.
"Obviously no class," Canucks star Ryan Kesler said when asked about it. "I'm a firm believer you win with class and you lose with class, and it's all I got to say about that."
To Marchand's credit, he came out to meet the media after the game, and explained his actions this way: "I did it after he was eye-gouging me," Marchand said of Kesler. "Just my emotions were a little high after that. He's welcome to say what he wants. We both play different games, and whatever happens on the ice stays out there."
There's much history here, of course, highlighted by how well Marchand played in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. The Canucks had no answer for him. Also adding insult to injury was Marchand's handling of Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. So, you know, very little love lost in the Canucks' room for Marchand.
"Everyone knows Marchand's deal," said Canucks blueliner Kevin Bieksa. "I don't want to get into a war of words but you know what Marchand is like. I think his teammates know what he's like, too. There weren't too many guys sticking up for him in those scrums."
The final word on this silliness goes to a man who's all about old-school respect and class: Bruins head coach Claude Julien. I asked him during his postgame media scrum about Marchand's antics and Julien didn't hide how he felt about it.
"I did hear, obviously I don't watch the game, I coach the game, but I heard," Julien said. "He's a good player, he's an agitator, there's some good things to that part of his game, but there's certain areas where -- I've said it before -- you can't cross the line. Sometimes his emotions get the better of him. I mean, we've worked with him and we'll continue to work with him. The perception that it gives our organization is not what you want to see with those kinds of things. I don't know what he said to you guys, but it's certainly something that we're going to deal with. He's too good of a player. We don't want him to be a different player, but there's certain things we want him to be different at. From what I hear what happened, that's definitely not something we'll accept in our organization."
Translation: there's a sit-down coming, I bet, between coach and player.
The Canucks have now won both regular-season matchups with the Bruins since their seven-game loss in the Cup finals in 2011.
Regardless of how many times Vancouver beats Boston now, it doesn't undo the pain.
So as the Canucks players were saying after the game, enough with 2011, time to move on.
"I'd trade all of our wins for just that one in Game 7," Bieksa said. "That's over with."
Other thoughts and observations from Saturday's game:
Make it seven wins in a row for a Canucks team that appears to have figured out what head coach John Tortorella wants from them. They have certainly figured out the defensive side of things, although I sense what may still jump up and bite them at some point is their lack of overall offensive depth.
I'll have more on Kesler later in the week as part of our weekly Olympic profile story.
Roberto Luongo, whom I wrote about this weekend, once again was terrific and he's been a big part of this, too. Overall, the Canucks' run has inched them to only one point behind the San Jose Sharks, even though the Sharks have two games in hand, and three behind the red-hot Los Angeles Kings, and now four points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes.
There was a time a month ago when you didn't think the Canucks could run with the big boys in the Pacific, but they have proved us wrong.
"We've had a good little run here, we've been playing good hockey," Bieksa said. "We're confident, we're making plays, everyone is pitching in."
SCORE WASN'T INDICATIVE
First of all, the Bruins weren't as bad as the score indicated. The difference was that one goalie made saves for the home team, and one didn't for the visiting team. Otherwise, pretty even game.
"We had some good chances," said Julien, whose team actually outshot the Canucks 41-30. "When it's all said and done, the scoring chances were pretty even, but they capitalized on their chances and we didn't. I think that was the tale of our game tonight."
Star netminder Tuukka Rask was chased in the third period after giving up his fourth goal, and while he was battling the flu over the past few days, he wouldn't use that as a crutch.
"I'm not going to make any excuses," Rask said. "I was pretty bad today and that's it. I mean, lucky goal, but you make 23 saves and allow four goals. You got to look in the mirror. I thought we played a good game as a team, I just wasn't able to help too much."
The Bruins went 3-1 on a road trip during an emotional week which began with the fireworks against the Pittsburgh Penguins and was capped with Saturday's 15-game suspension to Shawn Thornton for his actions in that opening game.
Throw in other injuries and a flu bug that has ravaged their dressing room, and I'd cut them some slack for finally losing a game.
"We went through a lot of things, a lot of stuff on our mind, a teammate back in Boston, guys battling the flu, a lot of injuries ..." said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. "We come into the road trip expecting to win every game because that's just who we are. We did a good job the first three games, this one we just let get away from us. But we've played good hockey missing a lot of guys."
Thornton's 15-game suspension was old news by the time the Bruins were finally able to react to it Saturday night, the game's fireworks taking more of the spotlight. But Thornton will be missed in that room.
"It's tough just because he's such a great guy," Krug said. "He's a good guy in our room and we like having him with us. It's tough losing him."
Julien said he didn't have anything to say about it after the game, pointing to his original comments after the incident as how he felt.