Stanley Cup Finals 2011: Is Alex Burrows Biting Incident the Central Theme?

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Stanley Cup Finals 2011: Is Alex Burrows Biting Incident the Central Theme?
Rich Lam/Getty Images
Vancouver's Alex Burrows set the tone of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals when he bit the finger of Boston's Patrice Bergeron

After three games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the Vancouver Canucks lead the Boston Bruins two games to one. 

The Canucks won the first game 1-0 in a well-played game dominated by goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas.

Game 2 went into overtime with both teams having scored two goals each in regulation. Vancouver winger Alex Burrows scored the game-winner just 11 seconds into overtime. Burrows also scored his team's first goal and assisted on the Canucks' second goal of the game, which was also the tying goal as Vancouver came from behind to win the contest.

All of Vancouver was preparing for a Stanley Cup celebration. All of Boston was fuming.

The reason for the anger and indignation resonating from Boston was an incident involving Burrows and the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron that occurred during Game 1 of the series.

During a scrum of players along the end boards, Bergeron's gloved pointer finger on his right hand was near Burrows' mouth. When it came into contact with Burrows' mouth, the Vancouver winger bit the finger.

To the shock and dismay of the Bruins and their followers, Burrows did not receive a suspension or a fine for his actions. The National Hockey League's disciplinarian Mike Murphy said in a statement dated June 3, 2011:

"After reviewing the incident, including speaking with the on-ice officials, I can find no conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron." 

Alex Burrows bites Patrice Bergeron's finger

The NHL Network's NHL on the Fly television show repeatedly showed the video of Burrows intentionally biting the Boston center's finger.

Boston coach Claude Julien and his players said the right things to the media after the ruling was handed down by Murphy.

Later in the day, Bergeron appeared on Boston's 98.5 FM sports talk radio. When asked if Murphy or anyone from the NHL had spoken to him about the biting incident, Bergeron answered, "No."

An outraged Boston fanbase wondered aloud how the Bruins would respond to the incident and the lack of discipline issued to Mr. Burrows.

The Bruins played well in Game 2, but as mentioned, it was Burrows who put the Canucks on his back and carried them to victory, extending their series lead over Boston.

An incident occurred in Game 2 that many considered an affront to the National Hockey League when Canucks forward Maxim Lapierre put his fingers in Bergeron's face as if taunting the Bruin to bite them.

The frustration could be felt throughout New England and from every corner of Bruins Nation.

Game 3 in Boston began as an up-and-down affair, but that changed significantly 5:04 into the first period, when Vancouver's Aaron Rome stepped up and put a blind-side check on Boston winger Nathan Horton after Horton had passed the puck to linemate Milan Lucic.

Boston's Nathan Horton incurs concussion

Horton was looking at Lucic when Rome charged at Horton and checked him. The hit caused Rome's shoulder to come into contact with Horton's jaw. The hit knocked Horton unconscious and motionless for what seemed like an eternity to the fans inside TD Garden.

"The crowd was pretty silent while Horton was on the ice after the hit," Bruins fan Susan Lepsevich told me, adding, "Everyone was shocked that it happened!"

Horton was carted off the ice on a stretcher and immediately taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where the winger was diagnosed as having a severe concussion. Horton remained in the hospital overnight for observation and was released on Tuesday morning. He will not return to the Boston lineup for the remainder of the series.

Rome was assessed a five-minute major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.

That first period in Game 3 ended with the score 0-0, and everyone in Boston's TD Garden wondered how the loss of Horton would affect the Bruins. They received their answer rather quickly.

Bruin defenseman Andrew Ference scored 11 seconds into the second period, and the floodgates opened. Boston went on to score a total of eight goals while allowing just one Vancouver goal. When it was all said and done, the Bruins had an 8-1 win and trailed the series 2-1 in games.

Milan Lucic taunts Alex Burrows

There were more incidents during this game, as Boston's Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi were involved in scrums. In them, each Bruin taunted Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre by putting their fingers in their faces. Neither Canuck made any attempt to bite the Bruins' fingers.

It is conceivable to think that the late hit on Horton by Rome and the taunts by Lucic and Recchi would not have occurred had Mike Murphy responded to the biting of Bergeron's finger in Game 1 by issuing a suspension to Alex Burrows. Had he done that, maybe—and I stress the word maybe—Nathan Horton would not be recovering from a concussion today.

Players do think twice before delivering a hit that could injure an opponent after a teammate has served a suspension, and players will, for the most part, refrain from taunting opponents if they know they could receive suspensions as well.

Heading into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Murphy has announced that Aaron Rome has been suspended for four games.

Both teams have been warned to stop all taunting actions. Murphy told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun that any player who taunts an opponent will receive a two-minute minor penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. He also said in a statement that he would be "speaking with both general managers and coaches before the day's over about the crap that we're seeing, the garbage that is going on, some of the issues."

Perhaps if Murphy removed it after Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals by suspending Alex Burrows for at least one game, he would not have needed to make such a statement after Game 3. It was an incident that has reared its ugly head in each of the three games played.

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