They won’t, but the Montreal Canadiens should feel good about the way things have gone as far as victories on ice of late.That is of little consequence today as the Habs prepare to face the St. Louis Blues, as clearly, the horrifying injury to Max Pacioretty on Tuesday night is still in the fore of most Habs fans’ minds.
Once again the rivalry between the Canadiens and Bruins has been set alight by controversy – this time the result of a “hockey play” gone terribly wrong. For Bruins fans, Zdeno Chara gets all of the benefit of the doubt. For Habs fans, he gets none. Arguments have been made on both sides for what the correct course of action should have been in regards to possible punishment.
Personally, I fully accept that big Z had no prior intention of hospitalizing Pacioretty. As has been mentioned at all echelons of the NHL – he’s not that type of guy. The problem for me however, is that I don’t for a second believe that he wasn’t trying to do more than “rub the player off of the puck” as is seen in many interference calls in most hockey games. If Chara simply wanted to stop Pacioretty, there is no doubt that patches would have ended up underneath the large Bruins defender – not above him.
The above frame shows the play beginning just after Pacioretty chips the puck by Chara inside of the Canadiens zone as evidenced by the blue line being straddled by Chara..
You can see in the above frame that Chara’s position would allow him to push Pacioretty into the boards. The result that Chara claims he was trying to accomplish was still an option. Slow down the player from a potential 1 on 1 play at the end of the period.
The problem of course begins as Chara brings his hands up instead of pushing Pacioretty down. Either way this is a penalty for interference. The puck by this point is well into the Bruins end of the ice, pushed by Pacioretty while he was on the Canadiens’ side of the blue line. The play and now contact has now continued from the Canadiens’ defensive zone to the end of the Bruins’ bench a few steps short of centre ice. While there are those who argue that the speed of the game made the play unavoidable – in hockey, a game filled with split second decisions – we’re talking enough distance to make one.
The end result of the hit was disgusting. And while there are those who called for Chara’s head, as well as potential criminal action – I truly believe those calls are over-blown. At some point Chara’s attempts at a “hockey play” failed. His comments after the game reflect his desire to maintain his image as a clean player. And yet, clean players are still fully capable of making stupid choices. In the end, there was no time for Chara to make a pre-meditated strike against Max Pacioretty. There was plenty of time, however, for his actions to cause traumatic injury – which has been ignored by the NHL’s ‘disciplinary’ body.
Habs fans and Bruins fans were never going to see eye to eye on this one. The benefit of doubt is a powerful persuasive tool – and that goes in both directions. Fully aware that my status as a blogger for the Canadiens renders me a less than impartial judge – I have spoken out against ‘similar’ instances in the past – most notably the hit by David Steckle on Sidney Crosby (who I generally loathe), as well as the disgusting hit Matt Cooke laid on Marc Savard.
In this case, the NHL has to do a better job of defending its players from the careless play of others. In ALL cases, the offending player claimed that they were finishing “a hockey play”. As long as the NHL is willing to punish only the most deliberate attempts to injure, there will be example after example of “accidental” contact with disastrous consequences.
I’m going to try to leave my thought at this. There has already been so much said about this issue that I feel most people have stopped listening. My biggest concern now is that Max Pacioretty is able to regain full use of his faculties, and that somehow he is able to play the game again.
On what should have been one of the nights of the season: the long-anticipated Carey Price – Jaroslav Halak matchup. It is pretty difficult to think of anything noteworthy to say that could shift the focus from where it has been over the last few days.