Ratto: Canucks coach sensing a conspiracy

May 19, 2011, 8:32 pm
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Ray RattoCSNCalifornia.com

Ben Eager was cleared of any wrongdoing Wednesday night, as you knew he would be. His hit from behind on Daniel Sedin looked bad, but not as the NHL interprets it, thereby causing to look elsewhere for our daily fret.

Fortunately, theres Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, who decided to throw a few logs on the barely smoldering fire that is the Western Conference Final.

Upon being apprised that Eager was given a pass for boarding Sedin 28 seconds from the end of the second period, Vigneault discovered conspiracy.

In our mind anyway, you know, he went out and tried to hurt our player, the NHL MVP, potential MVP, Vigneault said, holding out trophies Sedin has not yet won as a shield against any harm befalling him. That's how their coach wants him to play. He ran our goalie. I guess that's how they want him to play.

Then he took the extra two for embellishing.

Obviously if he (Eager) is undisciplined and the referees call it, then it's favorable to us. That being said, you don't want players running around trying to hurt people. It's evident by him challenging the bench, him challenging the bench at the end of the period, his coach saying that's how he wants him to play, that I hope nothing bad happens because some people are going to have to pay for it.

In short, Vigneault all but said Eager ran rampant through the rule book in Game 2 either at the specific behest or indirect suggestion of San Jose coach Todd McLellan. The implication was strong enough, and whether this was gamesmanship designed to unnerve the Sharks or a deliberate shot across McLellans personal bow, it made for a classic off-day the day after the Sharks biggest off-day in years.

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We tend to look back at what other teams did, and I remember Chicago beating Vancouver a month ago, 7-2, McLellan said, referring to the 7-4 win in Game 5, There was a lot going on on the ice at that time. Alain decided just to let it go at that.

Nothing more incendiary than that, largely because the Sharks have their own issues namely, how to get most of the 12 forwards to get back to the hard business of forechecking and handling neutral ice. McLellan was critical of both the Logan Couture-Ryane Clowe-Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski-Torrey Mitchell-Kyle Wellwood lines, and also Devin Setoguchi from the top line for not taking of the skating and defensive details in the Vancouver zone that allow the Sharks to gain and maintain the puck control they so crave.

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McLellan reiterated his support for the energy and drive Eager brought, though he agreed that Eager went far afield as the game went on. Eager will play, but there are other ideas being floated, both in roster and lineup considerations. It is unlikely that defenseman Jason Demers will dress, though the Sharks have not come out and said what his injury is (upper body, not a head).

The Sharks also declined an opportunity to discuss Alexandre Burrows goal, Vancouvers fourth, which the NHL has apparently acknowledged was a blown call due to Burrows being too deep in the goal crease. San Jose has issues aplenty as it is without picking fights with the stripes.

Those all boil down to figuring out whether the Sharks take the failing in game 1 and the deterio-fest of Game 2 and tighten the details that the Canucks pried apart in the first two games. Ben Eager was an intriguing sideshow, but the Sharks have bigger issues to tackle, and have run out of time to grope for the answers they should already have had memorized.

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