What took until the second round to develop into an ongoing debate in the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring cropped up again on opening night for the Vancouver Canucks.
There were the predictable windbags in the Twitter universe whose aim has been to rile the Canucks faithful with tweets about Ryan Kesler's diving, Alex Burrows embellishments and Max Lapierre's smirks. But the biggest blow came from an unusual source.
"To everyone in Canada outside BC, you're welcome," was the tweet posted on the Los Angeles Kings official Twitter account, @LAKings, shortly after the Kings finished off the Canucks with a series-opening 4-2 victory at Rogers Arena.
This tweet was in reference to the label the Canucks were tabbed with last spring as the most hated team in hockey by non-Vancouver fans, other players and members of the media. It started after Game 3 in the second round against the Nashville Predators, when Predators head coach Barry Trotz accused Kesler and goalie Roberto Luongo of embellishments to draw penalties.
The most-hated label picked up steam as the playoffs continued and occasionally popped up this season. The Kings said it was an attempt at humour, but not many in and around Vancouver were laughing. This prompted the following statement from Mike Altieri, Kings vice-president of communications and broadcasting:
"We encourage our digital team to be creative, interactive and to apply a sense of humour whenever possible. To anyone who found it offensive we sincerely apologize."
This wasn't the first time a team has taken a shot at a rival club. Several weeks ago, when Edmonton Oilers forward Ales Hemsky signed a two-year, $10-million extension the official Calgary Flames twitter account tweeted, "$10 Million over two years for Hemsky is the funniest thing I've heard in a long, long time. I hope it happens. #whatajoke."
Some of the Canucks admitted the Kings tweet was discussed in the dressing prior to their optional practice on Thursday, but that the words would not serve as bulletin board material.
"It's not going to affect us," Vancouver backup goalie Cory Schneider said. "But I would expect our official twitter account to be more professional."
Lapierre added, "We worry about the hockey games. We have enough to worry about. We don't care what people think about us."
The Kings also kept their reaction somewhat muted.
"It's kind of funny," Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty said. "But I don't know if we should be sending that out after one win."
Alain Vigneault had one of the funniest reactions when asked about the tweet. The 50-year-old Canucks coach doesn't have much use for Twitter in his daily life and chuckled with a hearty grin, "I don't read the Twitter world. I don't care about the Twitter world. I care about the Stanley Cup playoffs."
What immediately concerns Vigneault is how to contain Mike Richards and the Kings. Richards checked in with a goal and two assists in a head-to-head matchup against Kesler, who registered two assists.
"I'm not sure I like that [Richards-Kesler] matchup," Vigneault said. He also didn't like the number of chances generated by Kings centre Anze Kopitar and his linemates, how well Dustin Penner performed in the series opener and that the Canucks power play has continued to struggle.
Vigneault wants to see his players quicker to loose pucks, battling harder and to stay out of the after-the-whistle scrums that the Kings were successful in drawing many Canucks into in the first game.
Vancouver forward Byron Bitz was suspended for two games by the NHL on Thursday following his hit on Kings fourth-liner Kyle Clifford in the second period on Wednesday.
Bitz received a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. Clifford will not play in Game 2 on Friday.
"It was an unfortunate play," Bitz said. "By the time I committed to the hit he had turned around a little bit and went into the glass. I had no intention of targeting the head or injuring anybody. That's not the way I play."
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