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Blackhawks, Canucks react to Raffi Torres hit on Brent Seabrook

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(Do you think Raffi Torres deserves a suspension for his hit on Brent Seabrook or no punishment at all? Vote in our poll to share your thoughts on the matter.)

In my time following controversial hits, there haven’t been many moments when a coach or fellow player criticizes someone on their own team. Maybe they disagree with the nature of a check behind closed doors, but considering how much these people go through together, it’s stunning that it ever happens the other way.

Off the top of my head, there are two examples of slight criticism of a teammate or pupil: Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle admitted that Bobby Ryan’s foot stomp had “no place in the game” while Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference wasn’t very happy with a Daniel Paille hit.

To little surprise, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault defended Torres when asked about the situation. In fact, he didn’t even think it should have been a penalty. Here’s a snippet of his comments, via Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago.

“Hockey is a collision sport, there’s a lot of intensity. I compare that hit to (Ryan) Getzlaf on (Dan) Hamhuis, and (Getzlaf) didn’t even get a two-minute minor. I didn’t think it was a penalty.

“Obviously you never want to see a player get hurt, and I understand where (the league) is going with it, but hockey is a physical game. I think each and every one of us wants it to stay a physical game without players getting hurt, but in a collision sport there’s always going to be injuries.”

Vigneault has a point about the considerable gray area between the Torres-Seabrook hit and the check Getzlaf delivered on Hamhuis, which just shows the increasing level of confusion surrounding the way the league polices its players.

Also to little surprise, Blackhawks players and coach Joel Quenneville weren’t especially happy about the hit. Here’s Coach Q’s direct and angry response, also via Myers.

“Brutal, major, absolutely. They missed it. We could’ve scored four goals on that play,” said Quenneville, who added Seabrook did have to go off at the end of the second period “to settle down. We’re lucky he’s a big Western Canadian kid. Someone else would’ve been on a stretcher.”

Speaking of that “big Western Canadian kid,” Seabrook discussed the hit but was wise to be mostly diplomatic about it.

Seabrook said he didn’t have control of the puck and didn’t see Torres coming.

“I don’t know what I was looking at to be honest with you,” he said.

Torres just came off a four-game suspension – the last two regular-season and first two postseason games – for his hit to the head of Edmonton rookie Jordan Eberle on April 5.

“I haven’t watched the hit yet so I don’t want to comment on it,” Seabrook said. “He’s a hard-nosed guy. He’s been in trouble with the league before for doing the same kind of thing. I’m going to leave it at that and let the league look at it and whatever they do is what we have to deal with.”

It’s hardly a shock that the opposing teams hold differing viewpoints about the hit, but it’s a divisive issue with our readers, too. The league faces a tough balancing act between allowing the kind of physical play that is a hallmark of the game and punishing hits that go over the line.

Maybe one of these days, everyone will actually know where exactly that line is.

Here’s video of Seabrook discussing the hit, again from CSN Chicago.

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Should Raffi Torres be suspended for his hit on Brent Seabrook? (Video and poll)

Canucks Oilers Hockey
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If insanity really is repeating the same action but expecting a different result, then Vancouver Canucks forward Raffi Torres might be insane. On his first game back after serving a suspension for a brutal hit on Edmonton Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle, Torres delivered a virtually identical hit on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Torres received a major penalty for the hit on Eberle, but most importantly received a four-game suspension that included two playoff games. This time around, Torres only received a two minute interference penalty for his infraction on Seabrook, although many people think that the greatest repercussions will come once the league reviews the check.

We can debate the merit of punishing these types of hits all day, but the bottom line is that the league already set a precedent by suspending him for nearly the exact same offense. If you want to compare the two hits, we have video that includes both hits at the bottom of this post.

It’s a downright stomach-turning moment when you consider the fact that Torres obviously didn’t learn his lesson from before. He clearly had little-to-no interest in the puck and was going straight for Seabrook, with the only subjective portion being whether or not he was targeting Seabrook’s head. It’s nice that the Blackhawks were able to get a measure of revenge by scoring a power-play goal on the resulting minor penalty, but will the Canucks care if they lose a replaceable player in Torres?

The moment was interesting for reasons beyond the shenanigans of a player who is drawing unfavorable comparisons to Matt Cooke, though. This situation put the cloudiness of the league’s concussion evaluation process under the spotlight, as Seabrook was allowed to play after the hit. If the referees followed the letter of the new concussion laws, he would have been forced to go to “The Quiet Room” for 15 minutes to determine if he has a concussion or not.

Seabrook received another hit from Torres (this time a clean one), which finally forced him to the locker room. Thankfully, Seabrook returned to play in the third period, but it’s easy to wonder if he’s covering up concussion symptoms.

Now that you know the basics of the situation, take a look at video footage of the Torres hits on Seabrook and Eberle.

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There were many who think Torres should be suspended for the rest of the first round series, but with the Canucks now up 3-0 (more on the game itself in a later post), it might be better for him to receive a certain number of games. People equate a single playoff game to two regular games, so his previous punishment was essentially a six-game suspension. Considering the fact that he clearly didn’t learn from that mistake, I’d say a five-game time-out session might be appropriate.

How do you feel about the hit, though? Does Torres deserve to go without a punishment, a small suspension or something more severe? Let us know by voting in the poll below.

Raffi Torres receives four-game suspension for hit on Jordan Eberle, including two playoff games

Canucks Oilers Hockey
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At this point, the gang at PHT – along with countless fans, writers and other people who follow the sport – have gone beyond the point of being flabbergasted with the NHL’s rulings on fines and suspensions. The latest blind dart throw comes in relation to the four-game suspension the NHL handed to Vancouver Canucks forward Raffi Torres for his brutal hit to the head on Edmonton Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle.

This means that Torres will be forced to sit out Vancouver’s last two regular season games and two playoff games for his irresponsible action.

The fact that he won’t play in two games that actually matter softens the blow of what I think is an insufficient penalty. If you ask me, this hit was one of the worst types: an absolutely unnecessary hit to the head that clearly could have been avoided. It’s obvious that Torres had no interest in getting the puck in this exchange, making it tough (though still possible) to argue against the possibility that it was a malicious hit. The fact that he was so ready to drop his gloves after delivering that sickening check indicates two things: he either has a great sense of hearing or knew what he did would generate an appropriately angry response. Or both, I guess.

(To be fair, hard hits are often countered with fights, even if they are legal.)

Perhaps the only good news is that Eberle told reporters he isn’t experiencing any linger effects from that check.

People can go back and forth about whether or not Torres it was a blind side hit/elbow, but either way, this is the kind of behavior the NHL needs to eliminate. Honestly, a Matt Cooke-inspired first round suspension would have been just fine with me, even if Torres lacks the kind of resume of nonsense Cooke brings to the table.

Take a look at the hit and decide for yourself if the NHL made the right call.

Raffi Torres lays out Jordan Eberle with shot to the head

Vancouver Canucks v Atlanta Thrashers

Looking over the 9-game NHL schedule, the Vancouver Canucks trek to Edmonton to take on the Oilers may have been the least important game on the docket. It should have been just a routine game with the Canucks fine-tuning their game for the playoffs while the Oilers just continued to play out the string. But then Raffi Torres delivered a brutal shot to Jordan Eberle’s head and all the sudden, everything got a little more serious.

Torres received five minutes for elbowing, five minutes for the following fight, a game misconduct, and possibly much more tomorrow. Here is the video of the questionable hit and the commentary from the boys over on NHL On The Fly:

It’ll be interesting to see what the league does with this type of hit. Torres ignores the puck and makes principle contact with Jordan Eberle’s head. However, whether he elbows Eberle is up for debate. Some will say he led with the elbow and others will say he kept the elbow in when he delivered the hit. Also, it’s debatable whether it’s a blindside Rule 48 hit because Eberle sees the check coming at the last minute. Herein lies the problem: if it’s not an elbowing call and if it’s not a Rule 48 hit, then how would Colin Campbell suspend Torres?

Clearly, the NHL will take a long look at this hit for the simple reason that Torres was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit to the head. Just from a quick look at the hit, it’s the type of thing the league is trying to get out of the game. Headshots are the buzzword of the moment and this was a shot to the head. Going further, this is a specific example why some of the GMs would like to see all headshots banned from the game. It wouldn’t matter if it Torres led with his elbow and it wouldn’t matter if it was from the blindside—a headshot is an illegal headshot. Simple as that.

How did you see the hit? Did the officials get it right on the ice when they called it an elbow? More importantly, do you think Torres deserves a suspension for his hit?

Raffi Torres, Mathieu Garon and Jaroslav Halak earn this week’s three stars

raffitorres

The NHL named its three stars of the week for November 1-7: Raffi Torres, Mathieu Garon and Jaroslav Halak. Let’s take a look at each player’s productivity with comments from the league’s press release and our own feedback.

First Star: Raffi Torres (LW, Vancouver)

Torres led the NHL in goals (five) and was second in points (six) for the week as the Canucks (8-3-2) recorded four victories to take over first place in the Northwest Division.

He scored six of his nine points on the season last week, with a hat trick against his former team (the Edmonton Oilers) being the highlight. It seems like Torres is developing some nice chemistry with solid two-way forward Manny Malhotra.

Torres might not go much higher than his personal best of 27-goals, but honestly, if he hits 20 the Canucks will be pretty happy with the rugged forward.

Mathieu Garon

Garon stopped 75 of 78 shots he faced, posting back-to-back shutouts, a 2-1-0 record, a 1.01 goals-against average and .962 save percentage as Columbus improved to 8-5-0 overall.

Garon earned half of the Blue Jackets’ wins this season (starter Steve Mason is 4-4) and seems to be in a similar situation as Brent Johnson in Pittsburgh right now. He’s outplaying his higher profile starter as a backup, but if this keeps up, the starts will be handed out far more evenly.

Jaroslav Halak

The former Montreal Canadiens playoff hero is backing up his name-making performances by helping the St. Louis Blues take an early lead over the Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division. In fact, this isn’t his first three stars award of the 2010-11 season.

Halak stopped 58 of 59 shots he faced, posting a 2-0-0 record, a 0.48 goals-against average and .983 save percentage as St. Louis improved to 9-1-2, first overall in the NHL standings.

His overall record is 8-1-1, earning three shutouts while putting up a 1.46 GAA and an outstanding 94.4 save percentage this season. It should be a tough November for St. Louis, so he might not put up the numbers to earn another award this month, but if they win more often than not then he’ll be just as valuable.