VANCOUVER – Ottawa Senators centre Chris Tierney stepped into the heat of the Brock Boeser concussion controversy Wednesday, apologizing sincerely for what he called a “hockey play” that went badly wrong.
Boeser, who only last week signed a three-year, $17.6 million extension with the Vancouver Canucks, is out indefinitely, with the potential of missing the start of the regular season next week.
With the Canucks on a power play during the third period of Monday’s 6-4 pre-season win over the Senators in Abbotsford, B.C., Tierney cross-checked Boeser into the sideboards. Tierney received a minor penalty for the play. Boeser originally stayed in the game, even delivering a hit of his own, but the concussion symptoms appeared later.
“I was just trying to go over there quickly and put a little pressure on him when he had the puck,” said Tierney, who didn’t play in Wednesday’s rematch against the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
“Unfortunately, I tried to put my hands up to put him against the (boards). I caught him in a funny spot there and drove him in … I feel really bad about it. I’m not trying to hurt anyone in the preseason. I didn’t try to hit him from behind.”
Tierney has since seen the video, which he acknowledges “doesn’t look good”.
VANCOUVER — Craig Anderson says it’s good to get tested early in the year, but the Ottawa Senators goalie would still like to face fewer shots than he did on Wednesday night.
The veteran netminder was forced to make 44 stops as the Sens captured a 6-2 pre-season win over the Canucks in Vancouver.
“There’s going to be games where it’s like this and you want to make sure you can sustain that type of pressure for a long time. So tonight was a good test of my ability to push through the lots of shots games and a lot of work,” Anderson said.
“Ideally you’d like to slim down a little bit on the shots, but at the end of the day, we got the W.”
Sens left-winger Brady Tkachuk put up two goals and two assists in the victory, including a gritty backdoor tap-in tally that evened the score at two midway through the second period.
He used a similar move to round out the scoring with just three seconds to go in the game.
The performance came as no surprise to Ottawa coach D.J. Smith.
“That’s how he’s going to score,” he said. “He’s a big kid that can own the front of the net and he’s going to score around that area all the time and it’s going to be hard for people to stop him.”
The 20-year-old left-winger was frustrated after being stymied in the first period on Wednesday, Smith added, and came into the second with a vengeance, fore checking hard and posting up in front of the Canucks crease.
“He’s a high, high-end competitor who just loves hockey. Certainly he wants to have success and he plays hard, so I really liked his game,” the coach said.
Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes is used to seeing Tkachuk’s offensive abilities, having practised with him in the U.S. National Team Development Program and after playing college hockey against him.
“I know what a good player he is and what he does. He was very effective tonight and I expect nothing less from him,” said the rookie Canucks defenceman.
Connor Brown and Thomas Chabot each had a goal and an assist for Ottawa on Wednesday, while Filip Chlapik and Artem Anisimov also scored. Mark Borowiecki registered a pair of helpers.
Thatcher Demko stopped 23-of-29 shots for the Canucks.
“It wasn’t good. I don’t have much to say about it,” the netminder said after the game. “I want to be better, have to be better. So I’ll get back on the ice tomorrow.”
Vancouver got a goal and an assist each from Adam Gaudette and Sven Baertschi.
The pair teamed up to open the scoring 3:11 into the contest after Baertschi was hit with the puck deep in Ottawa territory.
The left-winger took advantage of the Sens’ misplay, dishing the puck off to Gaudette who fired a one-timer and beat Anderson glove side.
The 22-year-old centre now has four goals and an assist in exhibition play this year, but knows he hasn’t yet cement his spot on the roster.
“I’m doing all I can right now,” Gaudette said. “I’m giving it my all and hopefully I’m doing enough to solidify a spot, but I’ve just got to keep going until it’s said and done.”
Gaudette put up 12 points in 56 games with the Canucks last season.
Giving his all has never been an issue for the young forward, said Vancouver coach Travis Green.
“He always puts an effort in and he’s here to make the team. He’s shown that,” he said. “He’s just got to keep playing. He’s played pretty well so far.”
But with a two-way contract and a roster over-stuffed with forwards, the native of Braintree, Mass., is also a prime choice to send down to Vancouver’s American Hockey League team in Utica, N.Y.
Gaudette said he isn’t thinking too much about where he’ll start the season.
“I’m just thinking about going out, doing my own thing,” he said. “That’s what’s going to get me a spot, if I go out and word hard and play my game.”
The Canucks will play their final exhibition game of the year on Thursday when they host the Arizona Coyotes. The Senators will finish their pre-season with a trip to visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
NOTES: Chris Tierney did not play for the Senators. Earlier on Wednesday, he spoke with media and apologized for a hit in Monday’s game that left Canucks right-winger Brock Boeser in concussion protocol. … Borowiecki and Vancouver’s Zack MacEwen threw punches midway through the first period after MacEwen flatted Goloubef along the boards. Both were handed majors for fighting.
“I’m trying to make a hockey play on a good player,” he said. “You definitely don’t want to see guys getting hurt, especially star players in the pre-season like that. I reached out to him and said I was sorry and apologized for the hit. It’s just a real unfortunate situation, for sure.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Tierney said he hadn’t heard from the NHL about the potential for any supplemental discipline.
Naturally, the Canucks are bitter, given the uncertainty surrounding Boeser, the 22-year-old who was a first round pick in 2015. Boeser has scored 59 goals and 57 assists in 140 NHL games, including 26 goals and 30 assists in 69 games in 2018-19.
The Canucks also lost defenceman Oscar Fantenburg to a concussion early in Monday’s game, a behind-the-net hit that resulted in a major penalty and game misconduct to Senators centre Jaden Szwarz.
The initial response from Canucks coach Travis Green was to label Tierney’s hit a “hockey play.” Come Wednesday, though, Green elaborated on what he deemed an unnecessary hit from Tierney.
“I don’t like the hit at all,” said Green. “I think it was a dirty hit, to a player on the power play. We didn’t have great video on it (originally) and no access to video at all during the game. But now that I’ve had time to watch it, it’s not a hit that I like.
“We’re missing one of our marquee players.”
There are countless issues stemming from the play.
While Tierney clearly recognizes that he crossed a line and is taking responsibility for it, there is also a fair amount of debate about whether Boeser should have immediately come out of the game for precautionary reasons.
“We all thought he was fine,” said Green.
Additionally, it adds to the on-going debate about how many or how few pre-season games star players should be skating in. Players such as Boeser have already secured themselves a spot in the line-up and they’re being paid multi-million dollar salaries for what they can do when the games matter during the regular season.
In that regard, Green says, Boeser needed to see some game action because he had missed the start of training camp due to a contract impasse with the Canucks.
The Canucks are keeping their fingers crossed that Boeser will be able to immediately return once he clears the league’s concussion protocol procedure and be ready for the Canucks season opener Oct. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers.
“I had dinner with him (Tuesday) night,” said Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev. “I think he’s getting better, slowly, but you never know with the concussions. I feel like one day could be good, one day could be bad, depending on the player.
“Hopefully it is good going forward.”
Those are certainly Tierney’s sentiments, as well.
“You don’t want to see anyone miss games because of a hit in the pre-season, especially when it’s not meant to be dirty,” he said.
Senators coach D.J. Smith says the hit and the ensuing damage had nothing to do with Tierney being made a healthy scratch for Wednesday’s game.
“He has played really well for us and he will be back in against Montreal (in the pre-season finale) Saturday,” said Smith. “I had to get (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau and (Colin) White in and if we felt he should play, he would have played.”
Smith says Tierney was not trying to hurt anyone.
“He’s just going for a loose puck and it’s one of those unfortunate things, but Chris isn’t that kind of guy.”