BOSTON (Reuters) - The Sedin twins Henrik and Daniel may be the smiling faces of Vancouver but not even their charm can stop the Canucks from being seen as one of the National Hockey League‘s’s most hated teams.
For all the skill and flair demonstrated by the two Swedes, it is the Canucks’ dark side that has the hockey world buzzing during the Stanley Cup finals.
Canucks Raffi Torres started the post-season by serving a suspension for a vicious hit and Aaron Rome saw his Stanley Cup abruptly ended on Tuesday when he was handed a record four game ban for a late blow to the head of Boston Bruins Nathan Horton.
In between, the Canucks have been accused of everything from biting fingers and excessive trash-talking to diving and embellishing hits.
“This team is so easy to hate its unbelievable,” Edmonton Oilers Ryan Whitney told a Boston radio station ahead of the final with the Bruins.
“I’d say that 90 percent of the guys in the league want nothing to do with seeing them win.”
Being cast as villains is an unfamiliar role for most Canucks but not one they shy away from as they close in on Vancouver’s first ever Stanley Cup.
Leading the Boston Bruins 2-1 in the best-of-seven final, the Canucks have adopted a ruthless approach that has left them just two wins away from clinching the title and ending four decades of frustration.
Vancouver’s Manny Malhotra, who returned to the team in game two after missing nearly three months with an eye injury, said the players were unfazed by what people called them.
“I don’t think we put too much stock into what people have thought of us in terms of good or bad guys,” said Malhotra. “We understand there’s going to be a lot of hoopla around the team, whatever people want to call us.”
From the opening game of the post-season to game three of the finals on Monday, the Canucks have played close to the edge, several times testing the NHL’s justice system.
Torres finished the regular season with a four game suspension for a hit on Edmonton Oilers Jordan Eberle, which included the first two games of the Canucks’ first round series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
His first game back, Torres nearly found himself in trouble again for a hit on Blackhawks Brent Seabrook that was close to the line.
In game one of the Stanley Cup final, the Canucks literally drew first blood when forward Alex Burrows was accused of biting Patrice Bergeron’s finger during a scrum, but escaped punishment.
The Canucks have been warned by officials about embellishing hits to draw penalties while Burrows, Torres, Maxim Lapierre and Ryan Kesler have mercilessly taunted and baited their opponents with trash-talking.
”We don’t really care (about being cast as villains),“ said Henrik Sedin. ”As much as you don’t want to see a guy go down like Horton, this is the way it is.
”I know the guys we have in the room. We’re honest guys. We’re hard-working guys. We’re a tight group.
“People on the outside can say what they want.”
Boston players were tight lipped on Tuesday, choosing their words carefully not wanting to provide the Canucks with any extra-motivation ahead of game four on Wednesday.
”Looking at what our sport it is all about, finding that line, playing hard,“ said Bruins forward Andrew Ference. ”We’re allowed to be physical that’s part of the fabric of our sport.
”We understand it is a very fine line.
”They are split-second decisions but they’re split-second decisions that can affect lives.
“The consequences are pretty severe, not the suspension consequences but the injury consequences.”
Editing by Julian Linden