Only one word can describe the events at GM Place this Monday night, UGLY. The game was UGLY, the score was UGLY, the goaltending by the Canucks was UGLY, the play of the Canucks was UGLY, the fights were UGLY, the crowd turned UGLY, worst of all the Bertuzzi incident was UGLY. ln the end the sport of Hockey looked UGLY.
As game time arrived the atmosphere in GM place was electric with anticipation. Two teams vying for first place in their division, two teams that don't particularly like each other, but with the importance of the night one would expect things to be businesslike. One would be wrong. Vancouver were outplayed, outhit and outscored in the first period, the Avalanche scoring four goals in rapid succession on a completely lost Dan Cloutier, chased from the game after ten shots and goal number four. From there things took a mild turn for the worse, Steve Moore, the player who knocked Marcus Naslund out of the lineup in February, scored a goal, an event not well received by the GM Place crowd. He was also involved in a fight with Matt Cooke, which should have settled the revenge factor. The period featured a few more scraps mostly between Brad May and Peter Worrell, which would be expected in a tense situation such as this. Mercifully for the Canucks the period came to an end, giving the Canucks a chance to reflect on their first period collapse.
The second period gave the Canucks a bit of a reprieve, they began to show signs of life, playing with more intensity, getting back to their hits, getting a few goals. In fact, in a night of total disaster for the Canucks, Trevor Linden broke his scoring drought, getting two assists and moving into the Canucks record books as the top scorer in the Canucks' history. Linden looked quite uncomfortable at centre ice as the crowd rose to their feet. Perhaps realizing that tonight would not be a night for any celebrating. The Canucks started to make their fans believers for a brief period in the second, but STUPID penalties nipped any thoughts of a comeback in the bud. The Canucks for some inexplicable reason began to take runs at Colorado goaltender David Aebeschier, perhaps thinking they could intimidate him and get a few more quick goals. If that was a plan it was a Stupid one, they spent far too much time in the penalty box, giving Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk and Paul Kariya a chance to pad their stats. Which they did with a vengeance. Period two ended with the Avalanche in the lead by a score of 6-2. Despite their best efforts to get back into the game, stupid plays ended up putting the Canucks completely off their game.
Third period would prove to be the ugliest part of a very ugly night. More of the legal hard hitting mixed up with cheap shots and more stupid penalties. The game winding down, a score of 8-2 and it seems that revenge became the main focus of the rest of the game. Revenge for the embarrassment of their play and revenge for the hit on Naslund in February. Boiling over into the UGLIEST incident we've seen in hockey in a long, long time. Roughly ten minutes to go, Todd Bertuzzi who many perceive to be a team leader showed considerably less leadership, than goonery. Chasing Steve Moore at centre ice, Bertuzzi grabbed Moore, sucker punched him in the face, drove his head into the ice and then landed with his full weight on the guys head. Moore laid on the ice bleeding for ten minutes, as team trainers, doctors and paramedics worked on the prone body lying on the ice. Moore was taken off the ice on a stretcher and transported to a Vancouver hospital. Bertuzzi was issued a match penalty, but judging by the ferocity of the attack a suspension is no doubt forthcoming. Especially given the statements by the Canucks of bounties, revenge and such, shortly after the Naslund incident. With Moore in hospital, the whole incident now appears to be a pre-meditated affair of frontier justice, the League will have no choice to make an example of Bertuzzi and the Canucks and justifiably so. One wonders if the British Columbia Legal system will not also take an interest in the events at GM Place!
Bertuzzi's stupid move, may very well cost him his season and his team's chance for a Stanley Cup. That is not leadership, repercussions from his blatant attempt to injure will be felt for the Canucks in more ways than the NHL discipline committee. The Canucks will now have to figure out how to replace the player many feel is their second most important asset. Trading day deadline is tomorrow at noon, and now Brian Burke has to fill in the biggest hole he has. This simple, stupid act of retribution may be the beginning of the end of the Canuck's as they exist today. A team that had much promise at the start of the season, now shows signs of a total meltdown. Brian Burke has yet to sign a contract, he lobbied for Bertuzzi's huge raise this year, now his protege may have cost the Canucks a chance to go through the playoffs. The Canuck's ownership can only sit back and wonder what the hell is happening to their team these days.
The rest of the game tried to play itself out, eventually Peter Worrell would get into a few more scraps and then finally expelled from the ice, trying to get at the Vancouver bench at one time then trying to get into things with the crowd. Yapping from the coaches, yapping from the players, the refs desperately trying to keep a lid on the final eight minutes of the game. The game came to a conclusion without further bloodshed, a 9-2 Avalanche victory all but forgettable, but the taint of Bertuzzi's move will long hover through GM Place.
It was an UGLY and STUPID night, something you never really want to see. For the Canucks it pretty well defines the season, a team of promise which had the city and province in the palm of it's hands, now has far too many questions that they can't answer. Trading day may not matter now, this team has unraveled, adding a player or two now may not make a bit of difference. The way this game spiraled out of control for the Canucks, may be the final word on their season. The violence exacted on Steve Moore in the name of "some code", does nothing for the reputation of Todd Bertuzzi, even worse it leaves any hockey fan wondering what is happening to their sport!