Canucks embrace new-found toughness

 

They’re holding their heads high but the reality is they have to score more goals

 
 
 
 
Canucks forward Ryan Kesler and Kings centre Jordan Nolan square off Monday in Los Angeles, where Vancouver lost 1-0.
 

Canucks forward Ryan Kesler and Kings centre Jordan Nolan square off Monday in Los Angeles, where Vancouver lost 1-0.

Photograph by: Reed Saxon, AP

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — They can’t beat them on the scoreboard, so why not just beat them up?

The Broad Street Bullies approach to winning has gone the way of wooden sticks, but the manner in which the Vancouver Canucks stood up for each other Monday in Los Angeles was still the buzz here as they prepared to face the dominant Anaheim Ducks.

Nobody will remember a 1-0 loss to the Kings — or that the Canucks are 1-6-3 against the California clubs and have scored just 15 goals in that stretch — as much as they’ll recall Tom Sestito coming to Henrik Sedin’s defence and challenging an unwilling Jordan Nolan. They’ll remember Ryan Kesler exacting revenge on Dustin Brown for an injury to Roberto Luongo and Kevin Bieksa fighting Matt Greene.

“We didn’t get the win, but we can come out of that game with our heads up high knowing we battled for one another,” said Luongo, who practised Tuesday and is close to returning from an ankle sprain suffered Jan. 4 in the Brown crease collision. “It was a statement for our team that we won’t get pushed around and I don’t think it was about one particular person — more about standing up for each other as a team.”

Sestito has become a fan favourite. His league-leading 12 fights overshadow a decent skill level. Sestito was still steamed at Nolan on Tuesday, but he did see some humour in it all.

“Highest paid player — ice time to salary,” joked Sestito. “That guy [Nolan] goes after [Ryan] Stanton a couple of games ago [in the season series] and jumps him. He’s got to answer the bell once in a while. He just does it on his own time. It’s a joke. It’s embarrassing for him. I’d be embarrassed. I don’t want to put the team down (short-handed) for seven minutes, but I also don’t want them taking runs at Hank and Danny or any of the star player we have.”

As the aggressor against an unwilling Nolan, Sestito was assessed two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting, 10 minutes for instigating and a game misconduct.

“I was pretty surprised,” added Sestito. “I figured the two, five and 10 but not the game (misconduct). Maybe I should have done more. I think we can kept it up and teams aren’t going to like playing against us.”

Kesler doesn’t believe the Canucks get enough credit for physically standing up to the opposition.

He was more concerned about the perception of the Canucks than fighting his Olympic teammate Monday. Sustainability is always in question when core players are being pushed harder and the entire team is being pushed to stand up for each other. Moral victories don’t count in the standings, but the Canucks may have turned a respect corner.

“We don’t get enough credit for how tough we are and just because we might be smaller — I don’t know who it comes from — but I think we will stand up for each other,” said Kesler. “We battled and went down swinging and we can build off that. That’s the way we need to play every night.”

Getting Zack Kassian to play the right way most nights has been an ongoing project for John Tortorella.

The Canucks coach likes Kassian’s passion but thinks the two 10-minute misconducts against the Kings were a lack of judgment.

Tortorella needs the winger to adapt rather than react when bad blood spills over. It’s about playing harder and smarter and winning fights and board battles because you have to scratch and claw for points in the Pacific Division.

“If we’re going to be good we have to stand tall,” said Tortorella. “We needed to change and to add personality to our game. We need Zack in that type of game (Monday).

“But he needs to shut his mouth. We’re trying to teach him how to handle himself in those situations and he’s still a kid. He’s on the cusp of knowing but took a step back.”

Said Kassian: “The first 10 minutes (misconduct) was uncalled for with the pushing and shoving and he (referee) wanted control of the game. The second one, I have to shut my mouth. I said something to the ref, I need to stay in control.”

All that has shifted the focus, which should be on a lack of scoring. The aggressive Canucks outshot and outchanced the Kings but the very makeup of the roster has placed a premium on play without the puck. Forechecking and turnovers are the forerunners of goals because the Canucks don’t have a game-breaker, that guy with the blazing speed and quick release who’s a threat to score on any shift. The Canucks did manage 16 scoring chances against the Kings.

“We’re not a team that’s going to score four or five goals,” said winger Daniel Sedin. “We’ve got to be prepared to play the way we did (Monday). We have to defend well. We want to score more goals but we’re not going to score by cheating. Defending is how you have to play in the playoffs. That has to be in our game.”

OF NOTE — Darren Archibald was reassigned to Utica. David Booth will play Wednesday. The Canucks plan another recall for a roster option Thursday in Phoenix.

bkuzma@theprovince.com

twitter.com/benkuzma

 
 
 
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Canucks forward Ryan Kesler and Kings centre Jordan Nolan square off Monday in Los Angeles, where Vancouver lost 1-0.
 

Canucks forward Ryan Kesler and Kings centre Jordan Nolan square off Monday in Los Angeles, where Vancouver lost 1-0.

Photograph by: Reed Saxon, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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