If you’re a Bruins fan, be proud, very proud.
You don’t need cheap shot artists to take out the other team’s best players to have a chance to win another Stanley Cup. Yes, you have Shawn Thornton. But he’s not skating around the ice, putting his stick between the legs of Brad Marchand.
He’s not taking blindside headshots at defenseless players in the neutral zone.
If he sees something, he takes on the player face-to-face and usually the player, who doesn’t have the stones to fight him, backs down.
Enough is enough.
I don’t want to see Raffi Torres back on the ice in these playoffs.
In the first period of Tuesday’s game in Chicago, the Phoenix thug on skates delivered a brutal shoulder shot to the head of Blackhawks’ star Marian Hossa. Torres lined up Hossa and left his skates and propelled himself at Hossa, who like Nathan Horton last June against the Canucks, had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Torres is a gutless coward. But he’s hardly alone.
There’s Pittsburgh’s James Neal – a 40-goal scorer – who left his feet to throw an elbow at 19-year-old Sean Couturier in the neutral zone in Philadelphia. Moments later, with the Flyers completely dominating and embarrassing the entitled Sidney Crosby and Penguins, Neal went after one of the most skilled players in the game, Claude Giroux, with a flying elbow to the head.
The hit to Giroux was bad but Couturier was defenseless and not even looking for it.
There’s the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin on Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson last Saturday in New York.
Hagelin and Torres have delivered the most egregious hits in what has been a PR nightmare for the NHL for its biggest showcase event of the year.
Both should be suspended for the rest of the playoffs, not to return until next season. Period.
It’s the job of NHL chief of police Brendan Shanahan to hand out the suspensions, affectionately known as a “Shanaban” around the league.
In his wisdom, he decided that Hagelin should only serve three games for a taking out the star player on the other team. The jury is out on Torres will receive. Neal received a one-game ban for his hit on Giroux but amazingly nothing for a far worse hit on Couturier.
He handed out a “Shanaban” of four games to Aaron Asham for his goon job of Brayden Schenn, cross-checking the rookie to the throat andthen pummeling him while he was on the ice.
The NHL now knows what the NFL felt like about a month ago.
It has a situation on its hands that’s even more dangerous and reprehensible that the NFL’s bounty controversy which was confined to one pathological lying defensive coordinator and his ability to pull the wool over an organization’s eyes.
This is a league-wide epidemic. How bad is it? Ask Torres and Neal, and they were only doing their job.
“As far as the hit goes, I thought it was a hockey play,” said the delusional Torres.
Even when you leave your skates and you target the head?
“Brutal hit, I saw the whole thing in front of me,” a justifiably enraged Blackhawks coach Joel Quenville said after Tuesday’s mauling. “You could have a multiple choice question and it was all of the above. How four [on-ice officials] could miss it, that was hard. The refereeing tonight was a disgrace.”
Not as disgraceful as Torres, a repeat offender.
One night earlier, Dustin Brown of the Kings delivered a clean hit when he drilled Henrik Sedin along the boards in Los Angeles. Brown didn’t leave his skates. He drilled Sedin in the chest and shoulder as he was playing the puck. Completely legal and clean and Sedin admitted as much after the game.
Neal said he did everything he could to hold up on Couturier before dipping his shoulder and exploding his left elbow into the rookie’s head. Please, enough with the stupid insults to the intelligence of those who have followed the sport for decades.
“I guess you could have eight different stories on every [controversy],” said Sidney Crosby.
Um, no Sidney, you couldn’t. You only need the high definition video of your teammates losing their mind and trying to take out arguably the three most skilled players on the other team while you sat with a smug smile on your face like there was nothing wrong.
Then, there are the more minor infractions like Nicklas Backstrom getting one game for cross-checking the Bruins’ Rich Peverley up high at the end of Game 3.
“I did what I had to do and I think it was stupid on my part,” Backstrom said Wednesday. Wow, that makes a lot more sense than what his coach concocted.
But what was worse was the head-hunting accusation on Tuesday by Dale Hunter – yes, the same Dale Hunter whose cheap shot on Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 playoffs caused the Islanders star to miss a series with a separated shoulder. Hunter claimed the Bruins have been targeting Backstrom’s head all along in the series since Backstrom missed 40 games with a concussion.
"That doesn't make sense," Claude Julien said after Wednesday's practice. “I don't know any coach that would tell his team to go after somebody's head. It speaks for itself."
Added Julien: "It's ludicrous. It's ridiculous. There's always going to be emotions in games, and there's things that are happening. Like I said [after Game 3], there was three cross-checks. They penalized one and they suspended one. We're not whining about the refs and we need to win the series and what's going on here. That's where are focus is on. That's what it should be."
So, it’s come to this. Brendan Shanahan has doled out seven suspensions in the opening week of the Cup playoffs. There were seven total in last year’s playoffs.
Dangerous, career-threatening cheap shots have taken the place of hard-hitting hockey and on-ice accountability.
Full disclosure here - my introduction to hockey came in 1974 with the Big Bad Bruins and the Broad Street Bullies squaring off on a Sunday afternoon on national television. I was a kid in Cincinnati without any horse in the race and I fell in the love with the action, hitting and yes, even the pugilism.
There was honor to fighting. I happened to choose the Flyers on that day and was a Flyers fan in my youth because of what they symbolized. I could’ve just as well picked the Bruins, who later won over hearts with Stan Jonathan.
The Flyers won two Stanley Cups and the hearts of manyaround the hockey world, not just because they were big, strong and took crap from no one, but because they had the best goalie in the game and names like Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Bill Barber to go with Dave Schultz and the bullies.
The reason the Flyers became the “Broad Street Bullies” was because their owner then and now, Ed Snider, saw his team get bludgeoned on the ice in the early 70s by several headhunters from the St. Louis Blues. He vowed that would never happen again and promised his fans that players on his teams would always have each other’s backs.
Now, hockey has come in a vicious full circle. The cheap shot artists are lying in waiting again.
There’s no honor in what Raffi Torres, Carl Hagelin and James Neal did for their teams. There was no standing up for a teammate. These are hockey predators, lying in the weeds, looking to take out a duck duringrange shooting. Nothing more.
Last year, we in Boston were fortunate to enjoy one of the best playoff runs any team has ever had en route to the Bruins’ sixth Stanley Cup championship. Yes, there was a cheap shot in that Stanley Cup final series as Aaron Rome in Game 3 in Boston did to Nathan Horton what Raffi Torres did Tuesday night to Marian Hossa.
These Bruins have each other’s backs just like those Flyers teams did. And they don’t need cheap shot artists for another legitimate shot at repeating just like those Flyers did.
On to the Trags Bag:
Do you care that Terry Francona changed his mind and has decided to attend Friday ceremony for the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park?
@dennisroy33 @Trags It's a great move by Tito. Proved his point about how poor front office handled his departure while fans still love him.
@allisonbw1 @Trags I think it's good Francona will be there...he deserves to be at #Fenway Celebration. #RedSox
@toeingtherubber @Trags I'm glad he'll be there but, honestly,I'm happier that his being there will give the fans one less thing to be jerky about on Friday.
@jboston19 @Trags I'm very happy about it. Nothing else likeable about this team right now.
@hurricanept @trags I want him to ride into Fenway on a moped, hit an offramp and while in mid air moon the Sox brass as fireworks go off.
@teala @Trags Yes. He should be there.
@Kdawg0113 nope RT @Trags Do you care that TerryFrancona has changed course and will attend 100th anniversary at #Fenway Friday? #RedSox
Whether Francona was pressured by his current employer ESPN to appear at this even to make the Red Sox bosses happy or whether the Red Sox gave him a financial incentive, it makes sense for Francona to be in Boston for the once-in-a-lifetime event. Francona is still bitter about how he feels he was stabbed in the back on the way out the door. This is not about the Red Sox front office or Francona but rather the fans and their chance to see Francona on the Fenway field one more time before he retires to the broadcast booth for the rest of the season.