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It's been an eventful first-week-and-a-half-of-the-playoffs.
Mutiple OT games. Controversial statements from coaches and players alike. Blowouts. Shutouts. And more dirty plays than any six 1972 Flyers games put together.
Jarret Stoll got it all started when he drilled Ian White's face into the dasher. Jason Demers set a world record in the high jump to crunch Ryan Smyth. Bobby Ryan stomped on Jonathon Blum's skate like he was kickstarting a Harley. Raffi Torres crushed Brent Seabrook behind the net with a blindside hit in his first game since returning from suspension for… a blindside hit. Steve Downie left his feet to pummel Ben Lovejoy. Chris Kunitz extended his elbow a good 12 feet to catch Simon Gagne in the back of the head. Benoit Pouliot took a flying elbow shot at Johnny Boychuk. Mike Richards hopped an elevator to elbow Patrick Kaleta in the face. Then Kaleta opened the bench door right in the middle of a shoving match so that Nik Zherdev fell in. Kimmo Timonen speared Nate Gerbe in an uncomfortable area. Tyler Kennedy kicked Eric Brewer. Jarkko Ruutu knocked the buhjeezus Martin Erat 20 feet behind the play. Dan Hamhuis tried to shake Dave Bolland's skull around his head like a baby's rattle.
And I'm sure I'm missing some, even with Chris Pronger and Matt Cooke still sitting out.
Look, I understand the postseason is a supercharged atmosphere, where tensions are high and every shift means incrementally more than the one before it. But jeez, guys, can you at least make an attempt to seem like you have the slightest bit of respect for your opponents?
(Coming Up: Lindy Ruff is a whiner and your Pearls of BizNasty.)
That's at least 13 legitimately dangerous plays that I thought of off the top of my head in 31 playoff games played. Just five of them were deemed by the NHL's supplementary discipline system to actually warrant suspension. And that's not the way the league is going to get players to play in a manner that is not reckless.
The NHL had made considerable strides in cracking down on headshots and other dirty plays, particularly those committed by what the league deems, with some degree of laughability, to be repeat offenders. And it has reversed that entirely in these playoffs.
The reason these plays have been points of contention is that most of them have been suspension-worthy, at least as far as the New New NHL — the one that's super-concerned with headshots because of what happened to Sidney Crosby — would have been concerned. If this were the regular season. Which it's not.
In fact, it's almost become the Old NHL, what with the shocking revelation that the area behind the net is not subject to the same rules as the other few thousand square feet of ice on the rink because it's a "hitting area," which is both a term and fact that no one in the whole Rule 48 fiasco ever saw fit to even mention in passing prior to Raffi Torres concussing Brent Seabrook.
Another part of the problem with these hits — and one that the NHL shouldn't take lightly — is that they're coming in the playoffs.
This is important because the postseason makes NHL players become the Black Knight from Monty Python. They would have to be physically restrained from playing regardless of their injury. Case in point in Seabrook, who went to The Quiet Room and returned to the game before missing the next two because, you guessed it, he has a concussion. The explanation was simple: "He wanted to play." Well of course he did, and as all parents of toddlers know, his really wanting to do something is a good enough reason for the team to let him, regardless of the affect it may have on his future health and despite there being a protocol in place to prevent him from doing so.
But apparently, in the NHL postseason, all manner of things like player safety and precedent are thrown out the nearest window unless it's really insipid, like the whole Detroit octopus situation, or too obvious to ignore, like the Kunitz elbow.
And sure as hell doesn't help that Colin Campbell, the league's Czar o' Suspensions, is out there giving radio interviews in which he completely loses his mind, regardless of how purposely stupid the questions he was poked with may be. The hosts got him sufficiently riled, to the point where he noted that he doesn't know what should and shouldn't be an illegal hit.
Then he started flat-out shouting "WE SELL VIOLENCE!" and saying things like, "When you rule on certain situations, all of a sudden you become public enemy No. 1 so am I pissed off right now? Yeah I'm pissed off."
Not good, and not exactly the steady hand on the tiller the league should and needs to have in Campbell's position.
The axiom that's been repeated more often than perhaps any related to the NHL these days is that its supplementary discipline system is a joke due to its infamous inconsistency, but that isn't the case here. It's consistent as the sunrise.
The precedent for New New New NHL is now that dirty plays like Torres' and Demers' and Richards' and Timmonen's are acceptable. It's been made clear that the crackdown ended on April 10.
After all, it's the time of year when winning the Stanley Cup is more important than anything. Even credibility.
Hey, Lindy Ruff, what color is that kettle?
Say what you will about Mike Richards. Call him a dirty player, call him a crybaby (both of which are true). But the one person who doesn't get to call him out on either of those things is Lindy Ruff, who gives significant minutes to Patrick Kaleta and whines pretty much any time something goes even slightly awry for his team.
And yet, after Richards complained about getting a (perfectly just) five-minute major for elbowing Patrick Kaleta in the mush, Ruff felt the need to go on the offensive.
"I just feel that they're doing a lot of whining," he likewise whined. "I didn't hear any whining when they had ten power plays in Philly and I didn't hear any whining when the power plays in the first game were lopsided, but all of a sudden there's all this whining that we're getting away with murder, that's a bunch of crap. That's for the media, that's for the officials to read, that's for here let's get the next call, that's a bunch of crap, let's just play."
And hey, if this was someone not knowing for complaining, like, say Danny Bylsma or Guy Boucher, neither of whom you ever hear a peep from, that'd all be fine and dandy. Mike Richards really does open his mouth too damn much, and all too often it's a woe-is-us load of crap.
It's just getting tiresome, y'know? Players complain if things don't go their way. Coaches complain that players complain. People like me complain that coaches complain. And what does it solve? Maybe Ruff does think it motivates his team, but it's ponderous at this point, especially because, any series in which Ruff has complained this vehemently has ended in a loss.
So I guess that's one way to shut him up.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on sign language: "Did Adrew ference just do a FTW celly? Unlike wizniewski he decided to skip the foreplay"
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