Cowan to the rescue

BARRY MACDONALD -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:33 PM ET

It might be considered a footnote in the Canucks' 5-2 win over Edmonton Tuesday night. It might have been lost on casual observers. But I would guarantee you it was not lost on the men representing this city that night in northern Alberta. "It" was the play, or contribution, provided by one Jeff Cowan.

Say what? What the hell did Jeff Cowan have to do with that victory? Daniel Sedin scored three goals and had two assists ... Henrik Sedin had four helpers ... and Roberto Luongo did his thing and the Canucks rolled to another victory. Jeff Cowan? Did he play?

Yes, as a matter of fact he did. Edmonton was intent on sending a message and just over a minute into the game they did. It was sent by Zack Stortini, to the noggin of Lukas Krajicek and while it was clean, it knocked the young Canuck defenceman into the middle of next week. Rory Fitzpatrick engaged Stortini in a brief courtesy scuffle, but Fitzpatrick is not counted on to exact retribution or send return messages.

Which is where Cowan comes in.

Hockey players are human. They can get a little unnerved when they see one of their teammates get plastered, and they hear an unfriendly building erupt. This was one of those moments in a game where your resident tough guy has to make his presence felt. And soon. And without taking a stupid penalty in the process.

Mission accomplished. Cowan got Marc-Andre Bergeron in his crosshairs and stapled him to the ice. He was lucky no penalty was called, but the Canucks had responded to Stortini's hit with one of their own. Cowan then got into a tussle with Stortini, and while it wasn't exactly the Thrilla in Manila, Vancouver's enforcer had done his job.

The intangible part of this contribution is what impact it had on the Canucks' collective psyche. It has long been accepted that teams' play a little "bigger" when they have a tough guy in their lineup.

The bad guys on the other side know they will be held accountable should they take liberties with one of the good guys. And while the goon is pretty much an endangered specie in the NHL, there is still room for players like Cowan. The job requires more skating ability than it used to, a moderate amount of skill and the sense to know when a message needs to be sent.

Vancouver won the game, and the twins were fantastic. And in his own, subtle way ... so was Jeff Cowan.


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