What happened in Pittsburgh last Saturday has left yet another black mark on the great game of hockey. Both Shawn Thornton’s attack on Brooks Orpik and James Neal’s knee to Brad Marchand’s head were dirty plays which crossed the clear lines of respect all hockey players are supposed to follow, the “unwritten code” we all so often speaks of. (In case you haven’t seen it, click HERE for a video including both incidents)
It is very easy for the anti-fighting fans of hockey to twist Saturday night’s Thornton-Oprik incident into another example of fighting not having a place in the NHL. The problem is that the incident was not a fight: it was an assault. It is unrealistic to imply that this would not have happened if fighting was banned in the NHL. You can ban fights, but you can’t ban the thirst for revenge . Thornton was on a mission to avenge the concussed Loui Eriksson after he was hit by Orpik in the opening minute of the game. One could counter-argue that if Orpik had fought Thornton when he first challenged him, the incident could have just as easily been avoided. But the reality is that Orpik had no obligation to fight, and that’s where it should have ended. Thornton’s actions of slew-footing and punching a defenseless Orpik were unnecessary and uncalled for, and it’s very likely that the NHL department of player safety throws the book at him. He crossed a moral line, and there is no room for that in hockey. However, this should not be come a hill for anti-fighting groups to plant their flag. This was more about a player crossing the line than fighting.
What is being lost in all of this, most likely due to the images of Orpik being stretched off the ice, is the incredibly vicious knee to Marchand’s head, only second’s before Thornton’s attack. Neal, who has been under fire for dirty hits a few times in recent memory (such as these two incidents in the same game), had more than enough time to get out of the way and avoid hitting Marchand. No such attempt was made, and it’s clear in the replay that he angled his leg ever so slightly towards Marchand. The more I look at the video, the harder it is for me to come up with any defense for his heinous acts. A 5-game suspension for such an act I feel is getting off easy. For Neal to have such a lack of respect for a fellow player is far more disturbing than and fight I’ve seen this year.
We hope that what happened in that game will never happen again, but this won’t be aided simply by banning fighting in the NHL. Both of these incidents relate more to a lack of respect between players, something that rules simply can’t change. In a season that has been plagued by blatant head shots and other incidents which involved an intent to injure, it is the culture of the NHL players that needs to change, not the rule book. Respect for one another is the key to improving the poisoned and tainted culture of the NHL.
GALLAGHER SCORES SHOOTOUT WINNER, RASK TRIES TO SHOW HIS FRUSTRATION AND FAILS
Tuuka Rask of the Boston Bruins has a history of post-shootout meltdowns (and by a history, I mean two incidents). When Brandon Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens scores the shootout winner against Rask, he tried to show his frustration, and failed. It’s right at the end of the video, so be patient.
Now this isn’t nearly as funny as his meltdown in the AHL a couple of years ago (link HERE), but it’s still a good one. Hockey players will tell you that goalies are a special breed. They’re usually the quiet one in the corner with the strange pre-game rituals. So when they get angry, they usually show it in a strange (and often hilarious) manner. I’m allowed to say that, cause I’m a goalie (but don’t tell my girlfriend that we’re weird, she doesn’t know yet!). I think that broadcast companies should have a camera for each goalie, just to capture their meltdowns. 99% of the footage would be useless, but that 1% of solid gold would be totally worth it.
KASPARS DAUGAVINS SHOWS GUTS IN HIS SHOOTOUT ATTEMPT AGAINST TUUKA RASK
If you ask hockey fans about the shootout, it’s pretty well divided as to whether it’s exciting or not. A lot of people think that it’s a crappy way to win a hockey game, while others think it’s a really exciting way for the team’s to decide a winner. In my opinion, what makes it exciting for me is when people try different moves or tricks to score. Kaspars Daugavins of the Ottawa Senators, tried something new against Tuuka Rask of the Boston Bruins.
Daugavins has been highly criticized for this shooutout attempt in the hockey world. A lot of people are saying that it’s making a mockery of the shootout, and that it’s ridiculous and cocky for him to try it. I disagree. I thought it was highly entertaining, and it took guts for him to try that in an actual shootout. This isn’t just a trick he decided to try out, he actually works on it a lot in practice. And as you can see, Rask has to come over and make a very difficult, acrobatic save. If he had scored, we wouldn’t be talking about whether it was stupid or not.
Just a side note, Rask and Daugavins are now teammates, with the Bruins picking up Daugavins off waivers earlier this month. My theory is the Bruins picked him up just so his new teammates could make fun of him even more for the shootout attempt!
CROSBY BREAKS JAW, PENGUINS LOSE TWO IN A ROW
While playing against the New York Islanders, Sidney Crosby took a puck to the face, breaking his jaw. The puck was shot by Brooks Orpik, but it took a deflection and went right at Crosby’s jaw. This is bad news for the Penguins. They won that game, making it their 15th win in a row, but the next two games without Crosby, they lost badly. First it was a 4-1 loss to Buffalo, before a 6-1 thrashing by the New York Rangers. It’s a little ironic, because everyone was ready to give the Penguins the Cup after acquiring Brendan Morrow and Jarome Iginla before the trade deadline. Since picking up both players, they’ve snapped their winning streak and are suddenly having trouble scoring. They’re still a team to be reckoned with, and I wouldn’t want to face them in the playoffs. When Crosby gets back, it will be interesting to watch this team at full capacity. Hopefully none of their other stars fall before that.