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What We Learned: Body-crushing inevitability of Alex Burrows’ injury

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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[Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.]

Sometimes the storylines just write themselves and you gotta let it wash over you like an acid bath and sure you're screaming in pain but let's not act like it wasn't inevitable.

At some point there was going to be a Canuck who picked up an injury of some kind while blocking a shot, and the inquest into the morality and prudence of The Tortorella System could formally begin. It wouldn't have mattered if a fourth-line guy picked up a leg bruise that held him out of practice for a day, or what happened in this case: the Canucks' third- or fourth-most important forward selling out to block a shot on a 5-on-3 PK in the first game of the season and putting himself on the shelf for what could be a "couple of weeks."

Après Burrows, le deluge.

The Vancouver media has as you might have expected already launched into a Eugene Melnyk-like forensic investigation of the efficacy of shot-blocking as a strategy that works in the National Hockey League. In the piece linked above, Steve Ewen notes that the Rangers were sixth in the league in blocked shots last year compared with the Canucks' 27th. The thinking once was, but certainly now no longer is, that an achieving of some kind of average between the two might be what Vancouver needs to return to its heyday of two, three, four years ago. Rather than, say, a way to reverse the aging process for what is now the fourth-oldest team in the league.

The problem is that Burrows is one of the team's top penalty killers and without him in the lineup for what could be a fortnight or perhaps more, someone has to pick up the slack. That's another player that will be asked to block shots and potentially face injury as a consequence.

Oh no, what if it's a Sedin? Do you think maybe that's why Alain Vigneault didn't let them kill penalties? The Canucks media has been clamoring for them to get the chance to get some shorthanded shifts since the start of the offseason, because the Sedins themselves want to do it, but just imagine what happens if Daniel catches a puck in the hand and breaks a pinkie while he's killing penalties.

Pandemonium. A throng of reporters waiting outside the Tortorella residence. Effigy burnings. Nothing seems out of the question.

Injuries happen. All the time. For a lot of different reasons that often don't have anything to do with shot-blocking. Last season the Canucks — block averse as they were — actually had more man-games lost to injury than the Rangers. Ditto the year before. And before that. And the year befo… well you get the picture. Is shot-blocking going to lead to more injuries than not-blocking? Yeah, of course it is. The puck is hard and moving really fast and guys don't have protection on their skates and that's what happens.

Everyone knew that a few months ago when Tortorella was hired.

But given that there always must be something about which to complain, and that the hand wringing about his infamous curtness with reporters has mostly proven ill founded, one must logically move on to something else.

There are legitimate reasons for which a team-wide commitment to blocking shots can be criticized (i.e. that it must necessarily involve ceding possession to the opposition.), but the Rangers under Tortorella were not getting shelled: they actually had a better raw corsi plus-minus (plus-149) than Vancouver (plus-121). However in the case of Burrows, he was on a 5-on-3, and it's tough to guess what else he was supposed to have done. If he pulls out a flamingo and lets the shot get to the net, there's derision that comes his way there as well. Not buying into the system, and all that. Plus Tortorella probably screams at him.

Was the injury "unnecessary?" Insofar as no injury should be viewed as necessary, yes. But what exactly do people want from Tortorella or his players? Some teams think it's a valid strategy, others don't, but this isn't some big M. Night Shyamalan reveal. "Oh my god he was committed to shot blocking the whole time!"

Please. Everyone knew on the day the hire was made what Burrows and Jannik Hansen and every other Canucks penalty killer would have to do to stay in their roles.

Not that teams can't proceed with caution in this area. Adding those little guards to every player's skates so that there's an extra layer of plastic protection between their feet and a shot seems like rather a good idea. In the New York Times piece linked above, it's no surprise that Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle, who played happily under Tortorella's system in New York, say that guys who block shots would probably be smart to stock up on equipment that make it safer to do that.

That is, though, one of relatively few workarounds. The others mostly involve not watching or playing for the Canucks.

To recap: One guy, albeit an important one, got hurt in Game 1 of the season on a blocked shot (because he wasn't wearing all the protection possible to save himself from injury) and everyone in Vancouver expected John Tortorella of all people to start singing a different tune about the necessity of the tactics that won him a Stanley Cup in 2004 and got him to an Eastern Conference final two years ago.

What league have you guys been watching? You had a better chance of Vigneault coming back.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks obviously want to retire Paul Kariya's No. 9, and for good reason, but he keeps telling them he won't let them do it. This is a fascinating article.

Boston Bruins: This is definitely the kind of goal you expect to see from Zdeno Chara.

Buffalo Sabres: What do you mean the Sabres got creamed by Pittsburgh because Ryan Miller got hurt and they had to use an emergency call-up on Matt Hackett? Buffalo's 0-3, and looking for all the world like the absolute worst team in the league. Is this payback for that third jersey? Yeah, probably it is.

Calgary Flames: Matt Stajan, the team's No. 1 center, missed Friday's game and indeed will be out a good long while with a leg contusion. Joe Colborne, the guy Toronto didn't want and traded for a fourth-round pick, appears to now be the new No. 1. Hoo boy.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are bad, bemoans a writer who seems to understand exactly why they're bad and that they were never not going to be bad.

Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago held the Lightning to zero shots on goal in the first period of Saturday night's game, which almost never happens. Shots in the game ended up 39-16. They still lost in a shootout. Hockey's weird.

Colorado Avalanche: Why is it news that Don Cherry thought the Patrick Roy glass-shoving incident was a good thing? Of course he did. This is Don Cherry we're talking about. Of course he did.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets took down the Islanders with a road shootout win, bumping them to 10-1-4 all-time against their new divisional rival. Oh and you know that thing teams do where they give some dumb thing to wear to the best player of the night after a win? The Jackets' this year is a crown. There's no way king-related imagery for a professional sports team in Ohio can ever backfire.

Dallas Stars: Here's Alex Chiasson scoring the game-winner against the 1-2-0 Capitals. Not a bad goal. What's interesting, though, is Chiasson's NHL career is now nine games old and his line in that time is 8-1-9. Watch your back Gretzky.

Detroit Red Wings: Darren Helm's timetable for a return? "I'll be playing this year." Thanks Darren.

Edmonton Oilers: What's a good way to describe what's happening to the Oilers in the first two games of the season? "Liquid garbage" sounds just about right. And it sure doesn't help that they're playing poor Taylor Hall, the league's best left wing, as a center between Ales Hemsky and time-ravaged anchor Ryan Smyth. When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins comes back, and Hall can play his natural position, things will sort themselves out.

Florida Panthers: Ugh.

Los Angeles Kings: Hey so what's going on with this Kings defense? Seven goals against in two games? Against the Wild and Jets? Woof.

Minnesota Wild: Zach Parise scored twice for the Wild on Saturday night but they gave up an overtime winner to the Ducks with 4.9 seconds left and now everyone in Minnesota is about to freak out.

Montreal Canadiens: Defenses know they can cover Lars Eller, right? The kid has five points in two games.

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Seth Jones played 25:46 against the Avalanche on Friday night, his second NHL game. He also got more 5-on-5 time than even Shea Weber, and had a better corsi percentage than any other Preds defenseman. So yeah I guess he's awesome.

New Jersey Devils: It is apparently a gigantic deal that the Devils changed their goal song. It used to be "Rock 'n' Roll Part II," a song by a convicted pedophile. Now it's "This is Our House," a song by Bon Jovi. Hey, I get it. I'd be mad about being associated with Bon Jovi too.

New York Islanders: This is the Platonic Ideal of a Matt Moulson goal. John Tavares does something ridiculous, Moulson is in the right place at the right time. Not that there's not a skill in that, but that's how you get to 30 goals however-many seasons in a row for he'll be able to do that.

New York Rangers: Ryan Callahan will be back in the Rangers' lineup tonight and boy did they need that.

Ottawa Senators: Here's Paul MacLean crying about a spin-o-rama in the shootout as if that's the big deal in this game and not the Sens blowing a 4-2 lead to Toronto.

Philadelphia Flyers: Yup, we're here already.

Phoenix Coyotes: "Wing Chris Brown played only 5:27 in Thursday’s opener, but he still managed to make an impression. Brown fought Rangers tough guy Derek Dorsett after Dorsett tripped up goalie Mike Smith late in the third period." Right, no, guys who are only in the lineup to fight only play like five or six minutes a night. Say, how long has Arizona had an NHL team again?

Pittsburgh Penguins: Chris Kunitz with a nice penalty shot goal that should never have been a penalty shot.

San Jose Sharks: Tomas Hertl can barely speak English, so after he scored his first two career goals to lead the Sharks to yet another win, his quote of, "It's crazy, I'm very happy," is kind of adorable.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues' all-time record for shutout wins was 16? That's it? Well now it's 17 and counting so thanks, Jaroslav Halak.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Jon Cooper on the goaltending performance (37 of 39, plus all three in the shootout) that helped his team take two points out of Chicago: "We needed Ben Bishop to stand tall if we had any chance of coming back, and he did." Right I get it Jon he's 6-foot-7 god.

Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer started the Leafs' home opener but got the hook after allowing four goals on 20 shots. Jonathan Bernier stopped all 15 he faced, the Leafs won in a shootout, and Reimer was never heard from again.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks' brutal beating of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night nicely illustrates the difference in quality between the haves and have-nots in the Pacific Division.

Washington Capitals: The Caps are upset about a disallowed goal that may have cost them the game against Dallas. Turns out you can't punch the puck into the net while you shove the goalie in the face with your stick. This league really is getting soft.

Winnipeg Jets: Think Winnipeg was hyped for the last appearance of Teemu Selanne?

Play of the Weekend
I'm no hockey expert but when the goalie is behind the net for a goal he allows that is not good I think.


Gold Star Award

Oh my god I love Clarke MacArthur. Asked about his thoughts on his former coach Randy Carlyle, he kinda went off.

"[Mikhail Grabovski] was a guy who had 30 goals, two years of 55 or whatever points, and then Randy came in and it just didn't work out," he told reporters ahead of the game. "They turned him into a checker, and look at him now. Four points his first game (with the Capitals). Three goals. I mean, who's right there? I don't know."

Sounds like you do know, Clarke. Sounds like you know exactly.

Minus of the Weekend

Marc-Andre Fleury is 2-0-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and .979 save percentage. Eat it, haters.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "MVW" might be a Flames fan.

TO CALGARY:
Jacob Touba

TO WINNIPEG:
Sven Baertschi

Maybe.

Signoff
Oh, that's okay. I guess I wasn't meant to have a good life.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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