As the NHL ponders what kind of punishment is appropriate for Zdeno Chara and the hockey world hopes that Max Pacioretty’s injuries aren’t career-threatening, it’s important to note how players are reacting.
Despite the fact that this hit was a perfect storm of historical bad blood and horrible timing, it’s not exactly an extraordinary moment considering the revenge-minded climate that often pollutes the game. (Last night was, after all, the seven year anniversary of Todd Bertuzzi’s atrocious attack on Steve Moore.)
It’s natural, then, to wonder how Pacioretty’s Montreal Canadiens teammates feel about the incident. Will they be out for blood the next time the two teams meet? Do they think that Chara intended to injure Pacioretty? Here are a couple of comments straight from Canadiens players, via Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.
Players in the NHL are also hyper aware of their surroundings and who is on the ice at all times – or at least they should be. Given that line of reasoning, Pacioretty’s teammate Michael Cammalleri has no doubt Chara knew exactly who he was dealing with when he lined Pacioretty up. Cammalleri said he still had not seen the hit, but had a feel for what his teammates thought about it.
“What people are upset in this room is that I guess he drove the elbow through the head with an intent to injure kind of thing,” Cammalleri said. “I don’t think Chara premeditated this, but from experience when a player gets under your skin for whatever reason, you remember it and you notice when he’s out there. You know whom you’re playing against. Especially a divisional opponent because you’re so familiar. You can almost tell by the movements of a player. There’s a lot of tells, from what brand of stick they’re using to how they tape it.”
Canadiens goalie Carey Price said the history between Chara and Pacioretty probably played a part. In a Jan. 8 game between the Canadiens and Bruins, Pacioretty scored in overtime, then shoved Chara out of the way, which was the genesis of the hard feelings between the two players.
“Well that’s the whole thing,” Price said. “They do kind of have a history and that adds fuel to the fire. The only person who knows is (Chara).”
When I first reacted to the hit, I couldn’t help but mention that overtime goal (and Chara’s angry reaction) as well as the ultra-violent previous game between the Boston Bruins and Canadiens. It’s easy to wonder whether or not the two players’ previous history factored into the ugly hit by Chara.
Ultimately, we may not ever know what Chara was really thinking, but we will know if the NHL will give him more time to think about it with a suspension soon enough.
Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.
Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.
The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.
St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators
Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers
There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.
It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.
After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.
Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.
Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.
Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.
The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.
With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.
As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.
Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.
Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.
Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.
Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.
Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”
Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.
Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.
Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?
The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.
Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.
If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.
It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.
Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.
That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.
That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.
If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.