A couple of days ago, everyone in Twitter land was rejoicing. Colin Campbell will no longer be League Deputy in charge of disciplining players. Brendan Shanahan takes over the challenging role, giving fans and press hope that future endeavors will be more consistent. Be that as it may, we get to last night's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final that after way too many whistles, finally saw the Bruins and Canucks put on quite a show with Raffi Torres providing a stirring ending that left Boston cooked with 18.5 seconds left in regulation.
While the criticism of the stripes is well deserved, let's give some credit for no offside on a hustling Ryan Kesler, who again managed to make the biggest play that allowed his team to prevail. We'll never grasp how the gritty do everything American who in our view is the leading Conn Smythe candidate, stayed on side. However, replays confirmed the miraculous play that allowed Jannik Hansen to set up Torres for a tap in that touched off some fireworks. The play of Hansen was imminent all night with a superb Tim Thomas stoning him on a breakaway moments earlier. So, it wasn't too surprising that Hansen was involved. But Torres?!?!?!?! A borderline player who plays his role well. I guess that's what makes this Vancouver team the best one they've ever had. It doesn't matter who it is. They all contribute. That's why they're a favorite in this series and explains our Canucks pre-playoff prediction, ironically over the Bruins in seven. Still, I did err in going against myself when taking my regular season pick the Flyers in Round Two over Beantown. Oops.
When they were allowed to play, the hockey was riveting with each club playing a frenetic pace, generating quality chances. Even if Vancouver's were better especially in a lopsided third that if not for Kesler's dramatics, was headed to overtime. It made for compelling play with nobody passing up a check. And the action was fast and furious. Exactly what you'd want from the two best teams left. If only that was the whole story.
What would a great game to kickoff the fight for Lord Stanley be without controversy? It came in the form of Alex Burrows at the end of the first. Not surprisingly, following a hard fought period, the two teams got together behind Thomas' net. First, Burrows challenged Patrice Bergeron. He of a concussion history who fought back to return last round. Intelligent. As if that weren't enough for a quite capable player who's scored some big goals this tournament, he then took a bite out of Bergeron's glove, stunning NBC production talent that included Doc Emrick, Ed Olczyck, Pierre McGuire, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. All called the instigator out and expected him to be suspended for Game 2, which would've been the logical thing to do.
When you're talking about a league that after retaining Phoenix, allows Atlanta to relocate to Winnipeg and then threatens fans before they even get hockey again, there is no logic necessary. That may explain how Mike Murphy somehow concluded that Burrows did nothing wrong. That even with video replay, which seemed to indicate Bergeron taking off the glove and bleeding, he ruled that there was no 'conclusive evidence.' Even if it looked like a bite to a vast majority including a large audience that made Game 1 of the SCF its highest rated to start a Cup Final in 11 years thanks to NBC, our opinions didn't matter. Unfortunately, one person is ultimately responsible for such pivotal decisions.
Burrows' large appetite reminded us of Jarkko Ruutu when he got nabbed for two games after treating Andrew Peters' glove like a snack. Biting incidents have also been alleged with a recent case if memory serves coming from the Flyers. In this game, you never know what can happen. Players will do anything to gain an edge. Though we're baffled as to what purpose Mr. Burrows had in mind at the end of a period on one of our faves, the classy Bergeron. Mystifying. Had it been the regular season, the NHL would have had more time and used better judgment. Perhaps the Canucks would've lost Burrows for two games. Instead, he gets of scot free and once again leaves fans, media and the blogosphere alike wondering how this is possible on such a big stage.
Like it or not, this is how our game operates. I am out of answers.