The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera spoke with a few irate Capitals on the heels of Rene Bourque’s elbow to Nicklas Backstrom’s head Tuesday night. The general consensus? Bourque’s punishment didn’t fit the crime — in either penalty minutes served or frontier justice.
Alex Ovechkin: “It was head shot. It was kind of on purpose. I tell the referee, ‘He goes like straight in the face with an elbow. So why give him only two minutes?’”
John Erskine: “If I had got a chance to get on the ice I would have said something to [Bourque]. It’s a tough call, you want to do something but you don’t want to get sucked in and take a penalty because right now every two points is huge for us.””
Erskine’s comments are intriguing. While the Capitals are hardly pacifists — Erskine and Matt Hendricks have eight combined scraps this year — they have gradually removed some of the tough-guy element from their roster. Matt Bradley and DJ King were jettisoned in favor of more versatile skaters while Erskine’s been in and out of the lineup.
An understandable move, but there’s always the Buffalo Sabres Conundrum to consider. Every team knows what Buffalo learned earlier this season: Not sticking up for your stars is equally damaging, if not more, than sticking up for them. Erskine wasn’t able to get after Bourque because he was bolted to the bench — he didn’t play the final 16:28 against Calgary — but you get the sense he was ready to find Bourque had coach Dale Hunter sent him over the boards. (Of note, Hendricks only took three shifts in the third.)
So, the question: Do Erskine’s words compensate for a lack of action? Intentions are great but at the end of the day Bourque didn’t have to answer the bell and the Caps might be without their leading scorer for a while. That’s something veteran winger Mike Knuble was very aware of.
“[Backstrom’s] probably been, with a team that’s been inconsistent he’s been consistent,” Knuble said. “He’s been our most consistent player and plays in any situation and he’s very valuable to us. I don’t know if he’s going to miss time or whatever but it’s a big hole if he does.”
UPDATE: Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times has more angry Caps reactions, including Jay Beagle calling it a cheap shot and ex-Bourque teammate Troy Brouwer saying “he’s [Boruque’s] got that little bit of an attitude to him.”