By Brian Monzo
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I've said it once, and I will say it again: I believe that fighting and scrapping, when properly executed, still has its place in the NHL. Over the weekend, 99 percent of the garbage we saw in the Flyers-Penguins game was the complete opposite.
It started on Saturday night when Ottawa Senators 'tough guy,' and I use 'tough' loosely, Matt Carkner attempted to take out Brian Boyle. Boyle previously had a handful of incidents with Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Karlsson, as we know, is not known at all for getting involved (at least voluntarily) in the physical aspect of the game. I completely understand the mentality of sticking up for teammates.
However, there is a correct way to do it.
A clean, shoulder to shoulder hit is one way. A two-man scrap is another. But to basically tackle another player and take body shots on the player is utterly ridiculous. Granted Carkner is barely an NHL player, and would not be in the league if not to do things like this.
Later in the game, in what was at least a hockey type play, Rangers forward Carl Hagelin would catch Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson with a high elbow, forcing Alfredsson out of the game with potentially a concussion. Hagelin was assessed, and rightfully so, a major penalty. While completely unacceptable, that at least was a 'hockey play' gone wrong.
We move to Sunday. We all knew the Penguins going to Philadelphia for Game 3, trailing 0-2 to the Flyers, would be a heck of a game. I know I was psyched for it.
Jesse Spector of the Sporting News gave us the highlights on Twitter: 12 goals, 158 penalty minutes, 4 ejections, 3 goalies, 13 power plays, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Surprisingly enough, the biggest agitator in this one was Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid, obviously out of frustration, was chirping and slashing and just asking to get crushed. In the midst of one of the many brawls, he and Claude Giroux would scrap. Kris Letang, crafty defenseman for the Penguins would drop the gloves with Kimmo Timonen. Aaron Asham of the Penguins, always know for being such a classy player (sarcasm) would high stick rookie Brayden Schenn in the face.
Later in the game, Penguins 40+ goal scorer James Neal would give rookie Sean Coutourier a cheapshot, knocking him out the game. Crosby would again get involved with Schenn and Scott Hartnell. Evgeni Malkin would yap his mouth, and of course, do nothing about it.
What was Crosby thinking?
This all comes a few days after Predators defenseman Shea Weber grabbed Henrik Zetterberg's head and slammed it into the boards, WWE turnbuckle style. That equated to a $2,500 fine.
Playoff hockey is great. But the NHL is close to -- if not already -- losing control of its players.
Brendan Shanahan was hired to replace Colin Campbell as the Director of Player Safety before the NHL season started. There is no way he knew what he was in for.
We won't know until later today if Shanahan suspends anyone from the Penguins or the Flyers, though heavy suspensions are due. Shanahan reacted to Hagelin's hit on Alfredsson late on Sunday, suspending Hagelin for three games.
Carkner, who attacked Boyle, got suspended for one game.
So what we are saying is, if you slam a head into the boards, that is only a $2,500 fine. Attacking a player will get you one one, but a hockey hit from a player who has no history of playing dirty is a three game suspension?
For most of the season, I was one of the few who thought Shanahan did a decent job. But these playoff ruling are very questionable, and completely lack consistency.
So what's being said is that a player can slam a players head against the glass and get a fine, but a legit hockey player (gone wrong) gets three games? Carkner attacking Boyle is a near criminal act, and that is only a one game suspension.
The Rangers, obviously ticked off about the ruling, released a bold, honest statement:
"The New York Rangers accept the NHL's three-game suspension of Carl Hagelin and will not pursue an appeal. However, we are thoroughly perplexed in the ruling's inconsistency with other supplementary discipline decisions that have been made throughout this season and during the playoffs. We will have no further comment on this decision."
That about says it all.
If they are starting with Hagelin and making an example out of him after dropping the ball with the Weber fine, then the Penguins may be without James Neal or Aaron Asham for 10+ games, because their actions were much worse than Hagelin's.
The league needs to find some consistency moving forward. They've made some terrible calls thus far. Fortunately, it's only the first round of the playoffs, so there is time to maybe fix this. But right now, they are not looking bright at all.
I've seen and heard the people with the 'conspiracy theories' against the Rangers. Please stop. Trust me, there are none. Also, the league has no interest in having the Senators advance. It's their internal system that needs to be fixed.
What the league does want is good, clean hockey - and if they don't act soon, these playoffs, as great as they have been, will be viewed and remembered only for the tough stuff and good players getting hurt.
Kreider to play?
We won't know until later today, but with Hagelin out of the lineup, Rangers prospect Chris Kreider could get his first taste of NHL action sooner than expected. The Rangers still have John Scott on the active roster, but Scott is very limited, and while he may dress for a game, he would see little time on the ice.
To me, what would make the most sense would be to dress defenseman Steve Eminger (he's been recovering from an ankle injury, but rejoined the team) if he is healthy enough to play, move Stu Bickel to a fourth line forward and dress Kreider. This addresses offense, defense and adds muscle up front.
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