Monday, January 16, 2012

New Cards and Cheapshots - A Lecavalier-centric Post

It’s time for another card that I just added to my collection and a bit of a discourse on being a fan of a player who does something a bit underhanded and shady.

First up, we have the newest Vincent Lecavalier card. It is also the first Lecavalier card from the 2011-12 added to my collection. Thanks to eBay and to those folks who post auctions with no shipping charges.

Is this the face of a villian?

That is the 2011-12 Upper Deck Canvas version of Vincent Lecavalier’s base car.  Nice card of the Lightning captain making his way onto the ice. I’m 90% certain that the young fan over his left shoulder is rocking an O’s hat as well. 
The canvas parallels are definately one of the nicer parts of the set.  So nice that I hope they bring Masterpieces back as a set next year.

Onto the shady side of things.  While I was enjoying the Ravens victory over the Texans yesterday the Lightning were taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a meet up of two struggling franchises.  As typical for Tampa Bay as of late, the Lightning went down 3-0, rallied back to tie it at 3-3 and then, in the end lost 6-3.

To say Evgeni Malkin had him self a day would be an understatement.  With two assists and a natural hat trick, “Geno” showed why he could be a dark horse contender for MVP as the season rolls on.  However his offensive output isn’t what I’m writing about.

With about 8 minutes left in the game, Hopeful Chase man crush Vincent Lecavalier went to hit Malkin in the corner. The cagey Russian ducked out of the way and there was some contact at the waist/leg/knee level.  As they skated back up the ice, Lecavalier kept shoving and trying to provoke Malkin into dropping the mitts for a rarely seen superstar showdown.

Malkin refused to take the bait, but finally had enough and threw a shoulder into Vinny’s face. The two danced, a couple of punches were winged in the general vicinity of each other’s head and then everyone scrummed up.  As the two combatants were dragged apart, Lecavalier landed what can be nicely described as a surprise jab to the face, but is better known as a sucker punch.   Watch it develop here.

First off, I disagree 100% with the NHL on NBC folks.  I don’t think Malkin was “low-bridging” anyone.  He was just getting the hell out of the way.  Lecavalier didn’t talk to the media after the game, so we can’t be 100% certain as to what set him off.  Coach Boucher stated that Vinny thought Malkin went for his knees.  No one likes to have their knees taken out (one of the reasons Mr. Marchand is enjoying a five-game suspension) and Lecavalier’s reaction would indicate that.

Vinny isn’t a dirty player, but he is physical. He’s dropped the gloves in the past, the most memorable one being his throw-down with Jarome Iginla during the Stanley Cup run in 2004.  When he’s on his game, he’s throwing his body around and creating havoc in the offensive zone and that’s all he was trying to do in this case.

I can't believe this is almost 8 years ago- photo from Life

I honestly believe that he thought he was being clipped, but that doesn’t excuse the sucker punch at the end of the scrum. Perhaps he flashed back to the 2006 Olympics when Malkin was suspended for trying to kick him in the head, or maybe it was just the heat of the moment.

 I know the entire team is frustrated. Losing isn’t fun.  Waking up in last place isn’t fun. Playing from behind isn’t fun. Storming back from three goals only to go back down by two less than three minutes later isn’t fun.  It seemed that all of that just boiled over and Lecavalier entered that zone normally occupied by Steve Downie.

As a huge Lecavalier mark, it’s hard not being able to defend that punch.  I want to, I really, really want to lay all the blame on the Penguins.  Unfortunately, in this case it’s pretty black and white.  To be entirely honest, I’m surprised he didn’t at least get the $2,500 NHL slap on the wrist for his actions. According to Bob McKenzie, Vincent will not be subjected to any supplemental discipline from the league.  Dang, no Shanaban video.

It’s not like I’m going to sell off my Lecavalier collection. He’s still my favorite player, but now I’ve got to put up with fans of other teams and their snarky comments.  They already have his declining production, oversized contract and standing on the Sports Illustrated “overrated player list” in their ammo belts, now they have this.  Trust me, it won’t go away.  No matter how much money he donates to local hospitals, or how many times he’s up for the Lady Byng – some fans will label him a dirty player because of this incident (and if you’re a Canadians’ fan – his slash of PK Subban).

He can help alleviate some criticism by upping his performance on the ice - fans will forgive a player anything if he performs.  He could apologize, fans love them some apologies. Or, he can just ignore it and move on with things.  Chances are that the third option is the most likely.

It’ll be interesting to see how Lecavalier will be received in Pittsburgh when the Lightning head up there on February 12th.  I’m assuming a lot will be determined by where the Penguins are in the standings. If they’re still struggling I’m sure there will be some animosity. If their healthy players are back and good times rolling, it’ll be a minor issue.  I also wonder if one of their tough guys goes after Vinny, perhaps a little Matt Cooke regression?

As a fan it sucks when your favorite player does something dirty, but it’s not the end of the world.  Single actions do not define their legacies, nor do they take away from past glory.  The best part of this story is that no one was physically hurt, just their reputations.

Let's end this on a good note.  Your Steve Downie photo of the week.  What an awesome Downie Mustache.
Auditioning for another Steve Prefontaine movie? Photo from SI.

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