After Lars Eller was left unconscious, bloodied and stretchered off the ice in Game 1 between the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators, coach Paul MacLean offered his take on whether defenseman Eric Gryba was at fault:
"(If I'm Eller), I'm really mad at player 61, whoever he is, because he passed me the puck in the middle of the rink when I wasn't looking," said MacLean. "That's always been a dangerous place as far as I know. Ever since I've been playing this game, that's a dangerous place to be — bad things happen.
"I think it's a hockey play that ended up going badly for Lars Eller."
"Player 61" in this case would be defenseman Rafael Diaz, whose "suicide pass" set up Eller to get hit.
Brandon Prust of the Montreal Canadiens respectfully disagrees with that assessment, as he told the media on Friday:
“It’s a dirty hit. I’ve watched it over and over. He has the choice to hit him on his front shoulder but he chooses to go to his far shoulder. If you’re going to go across the body like that, because you don’t want that full contact, then you’re going to hit him right in the face.
“Look at all the blood all over the ice. It’s a dirty hit. He’s got a broken face, so, it’s a dirty hit.”
Q. What did you think about what Paul MacLean said about not recognizing the name of Diaz, and having trouble searching for Eller’s name, that he wasn’t even familiar with the players. Any thought on that?
“Yeah, he already showed enough disrespect over there. So we don’t really care about what that bug-eyed fat walrus has to say.”
Damn. He went zoological on him.
Keep in mind that Prust was a member of the New York Rangers last postseason, who had an emotionally charged series against the Sens. As well as the fact that MacLean has been known to eat whole pelicans that he stabs with his tusks.
Here's Prust on the hit:
“When a D steps up, you have the choice to hit the guy square on. He’s has a choice. He chose not hit him on his front shoulder, but on his far shoulder. If you [make that choice] you’re going to pass his face, and that’s why he hit him in the face. He didn’t want the impact of a full body check. He wanted to just hit him.”
He also said Diaz was looking for a tip out of the zone from Eller, rather than a completed pass.
Furthermore, he said he hoped Gryba wasn’t suspended for Game 2, inferring a bit of ice justice coming his way.
As for Coach Michel Therrien on MacLean, via Habs Game Blog:
Michel Therrien just now speaking to the scribes, is also furious at McLean: "No respect for player on the ice, bleeding. No respect to Eller and his family in stands."
Suffice it to say, this is the Nathan Horton Hit of 2013 – an incident whose illegality can be debated, whose impact will be enormous and one that has completely reconfigured the emotional makeup of this series.