Canucks want to win, not win most popular

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 12, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The enduring image from Game 5, the one that put the Canucks a win from the Stanley Cup, was the lone goal, when Max Lapierre sent a rebound past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.

The same Lapierre who was doubled over in “pain’’ after an earlier minor prodding from Zdeno Chara’s stick.

Lapierre is not popular, not among Bruins fans, not among the Bruins. And while he may be the chief villain on the Canucks, there are others (Ryan Kesler or Alex Burrows) rapidly approaching that level.

Not that the Canucks, who are viewed by many of their colleagues as the most hated team in hockey, are bothered by their apparent lack of popularity.

“Who really cares what guys are tweeting and stuff like that?’’ defenseman Kevin Bieksa said yesterday before the team boarded its flight to Boston. “If I was on my summer vacation, I wouldn’t be tweeting right now about the Stanley Cup Final, I’d be enjoying it. Consider the sources.’’

Not only has there been a high level of physicality in the first five games of the Cup Final, there has been a high level of acting, particularly from the Canucks. Burrows, for instance, drew a penalty for embellishment in Game 5, the same guy who bit Patrice Bergeron’s gloved hand in Game 1.

Even comments to the media have come under fire, with the latest brouhaha being over Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo’s statement that he would have made the save Thomas didn’t in Game 5.

“I just said, also, that he might make some saves that I don’t,’’ Luongo said, clarifying his comments. “I’m just saying on that particular play I would have played it different. That’s the difference between me and him. I’ve been pumping his tires ever since the series started. I haven’t heard one nice thing he had to say about me. That’s the way it is.’’

Luongo called the reaction to his comment “blown out of proportion.’’ But it’s easy to do that when the Canucks haven’t won over many people in this series. While they clearly have endeared themselves to the fans lining the streets waiting to send them off yesterday, the rest of the hockey world seems inclined to read the worst into their actions — whether it’s comments, dives, or phantom injuries.

The Canucks, though, have their own views on that.

“It’s amazing how they need all this external motivation, how they’re just looking for stuff,’’ Bieksa said. “For us, we have it all in the room. We have it all in the Stanley Cup. That’s all we need. I don’t think we need any external motivation, whether for this or for that. To me, we’re more focused than that.’’

Add to that Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton early in Game 3, earning the Vancouver defenseman a four-game suspension.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that nobody really wants us to win here outside of Vancouver,’’ said Canucks left wing Raffi Torres. “At the end of the day, we’re just out there doing our jobs, having some fun, playing hockey. You can’t really worry about what other people say about you.’’

So, they won’t. They’ll acknowledge their status as, perhaps, a fun team to hate, and they’ll move on with their attempt to finish out the series, even if there are a few unpopular embellishments here and there.

“I think that’s what we’ve been battling through all playoffs,’’ said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “Nothing has come easy for us. I don’t know why that is. I think a lot of teams — pretty much every team, maybe apart from Detroit — I think every team has those kind of players that are on the line a lot. I don’t know if it’s because we’re up against Boston or what it is, but we’re going to stick together. We know what kind of guys we have in the dressing room, and that’s good enough.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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