Mason Raymond sustained a vertebrae compression fracture from Johnny Boychuk's hit in Game 6. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER – So here’s the situation going into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The Boston Bruins will have their emotional touchstone, Nathan Horton, in the building as they try to win their first Stanley Cup since 1972. The Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, will have to do without the services of Mason Raymond, who will in all likelihood be forced to watch his mates play Game 7 from a hospital bed in Boston.
Both Horton and Raymond were the victims of reckless, disrespectful hits that were leveled when neither player was carrying the puck and both incidents resulted in major and unfortunate consequences. The major difference is Aaron Rome of the Canucks will be as useless as Raymond because he was suspended four games for his hit on Horton, while Johnny Boychuk, who drilled Raymond into the boards back-first three seconds after the puck was anywhere near him, will get to play.
So much for the NHL’s new approach to discipline. Do the Canucks have the right to be livid after learning the NHL would not suspend Boychuk for his hit? Darn right they do. But Canucks GM Mike Gillis, while being eager to get his dissatisfaction across Tuesday afternoon, didn’t exactly say anything that would get him fined.
But you’d have to think he was seething. The hit was the result of the classic can opener that everyone finds so repulsive. The main point of contact came three seconds after the puck was anywhere near Raymond. And instead of taking the opportunity to let up on Raymond, Boychuk chose to drill him into the boards, no doubt under the guise of “finishing his check.”
“All I can tell you is my observations of the hit,” Gillis said. “I didn’t see the puck around him. I thought the Boston player used a can opener and drove him into the boards with enough force to break his back. That’s what I saw.”
That’s what millions of people also saw, but apparently the league either saw something different or didn’t have a problem with the myriad of offenses Boychuk violated when he made the hit. And after making it clear the concussion to Horton was a factor in Rome’s suspension, the league didn’t seem to think an injury as devastating as Raymond’s – one that will likely keep him out of the lineup until November – was worthy of suspending Boychuk. In fact, Gillis said the league didn’t ask the Canucks for Raymond’s medical records the way it did the Bruins for Horton.
“I think when you see the severity of that injury, the way our doctors described it to me, (it was) very, very dangerous,” Gillis said. “But it wasn’t a chipped vertebrae or cracked vertebrae. It’s broken through the belly of his vertebrae, so it’s a very serious injury.”
Perhaps this injury will galvanize the Canucks the way the Horton injury apparently brought the Bruins together with a unity of purpose. One thing is for sure, it took the attention away from another terrible Canuck effort on the road. The Canucks have dealt well with injuries all year and will likely slide Jeff Tambellini into Raymond’s spot. After initial fears that both Andrew Alberts and Alex Edler might not be able to play, coach Alain Vigneault said both will be ready to go.
Vigneault was also coy when asked whether some of his current injured players might be available for Game 7, leading to speculation about the possibility of seeing Dan Hamhuis for the first time since his ankle injury in Game 1.
One thing is for sure. Mason Raymond won’t be playing. The only thing we don’t know is if the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, when he’ll even be able to lift it.
DREAMS OF GLORY
When a Stanley Cup final gets to this stage, it’s inevitable someone will ask a player about playing road hockey and imagining himself in this position. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who is as thoughtful a player as you’ll meet, had an interesting response.
“When we’re in the garage or driveway playing as a kid and you’re fantasizing, well, I was Stevie Yzerman, which doesn't make sense for a goalie,” said Thomas, a native of Flint, Mich., “but you’re saying to yourself, ‘Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals’ you’re not saying Game 6, you know? So this is really what every kid dreams about.”
LEGEND IN THE MAKING
Ryan Kesler was once being touted for the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs, but enters Game 7 with one assist in the series. He’s more concerned, of course, with the outcome of Game 7 than he is his own offensive output.
“Obviously you want to score, help the team win, but (Wednesday night) is all that matters,” Kesler said. “Everything in the past is in the past. If we win (Wednesday), we become legends and I don’t think anybody worries about that I have one point in six games.”
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.