How much do the hockey gods hate Vancouver right now? I’m beginning to believe the Canucks slept with the gods’ spouses.
Tonight’s cruel trick: on a day in which hockey media blitz GM Mike Gillis, asking whether coach John Tortorella has lost the Canucks room, give Torts and the team a rallying point, then take it away seconds later with a gut punch.
It was a nice sight to see Tortorella and the Canucks smiling in relief on the bench after Alexandre Burrows scored his first goal of the season. It took Burrows 36 games to pot one (well, two, as he added another as the equalizer in the third period) after he led Vancouver in goals last year. Snapping a streak of seven straight regulation road losses was good news, too.
But less than a minute after Burrows’ first of the year, Kesler and Winnipeg’s Jim Slater slammed into each other:
Ryan Kesler was done for the game on impact. He didn’t know it, as he went to the bench before the dressing room, but anyone watching knew it. The knee-on-knee collision was that violent. He was in street clothes by the second intermission and is out for the rest of the Canucks’ road trip. He’ll return to Vancouver for tests on his leg. With Kesler’s status up in the air now, plenty of Canucks fans will be angry with Slater about the hit, but I wonder if they should be.
Both players reach for the puck, not even looking at each other. Slater makes no effort to get out of the way, but he’s trying to play the puck. He seems surprised by the contact, almost angry at the hit, as if he feels like the victim. He isn’t, but I sincerely doubt he is trying to hurt Kesler. To me, this is not a suspendable hit. The tripping penalty is enough.
Regardless, it’s just one more blow for the hapless Canucks. A week ago, things couldn’t have gotten any worse. Since the Roberto Luongo trade, Eddie Lack has struggled for the most part as the de facto No. 1 goalie, the Canucks have allowed a seven-goal third period at home to the Islanders and now Kesler could be out long-term. Despite the win over Winnipeg tonight, losing Kesler makes it more likely than ever that we’ll see no Western Canadian teams in the playoffs for the first time since 1978.
Now, Vancouver can only hope the injury isn’t one that requires serious long-term rehabilitation, as it would damage Kesler’s trade value. For a team in need of a rebuild, that may be the worst news yet in a nightmare season.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin