This game was over-hyped. After the fight filled affair in February, most of the hockey world expected a good, hard hitting hockey game. It actually started that way. Early in the first period, after Zack Boychuk missed caving in P.K. Subban, he and Ryan White got into a good scrap at centre ice for over a minute. No clear winner, but certainly a good, old fashioned “hockey” fight.
As the game progressed, the Habs, thanks to two goals by Lars Eller and both assisted by Travis Moen, went to the locker room with a 2-0 lead after the first period. The second was less physical, but remained to the Canadiens’ advantage. Maintaining a strong two-man forecheck, “Les Glorieux” hemmed to Bruins in, and scored two more goals to extend the lead to 4-0. Habs’ fans were elated, until the last twenty odd seconds of the period.
In one of the most vicious impact I’ve seen in twenty years, Bruins’ captain, Zdeno Chara, ran Max Pacioretty in the stanchion between the Boston Bruins’ bench and the runway leading to the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing room. The site of the 22 year-old budding star, with his saliva frozen to the Bell Centre ice, made my stomach turn. Lucky that Dr. David Mulder and the Habs’ training staff were quick to respond.
The puck had been pushed into the Bruins’ zone by “Patches”, who attempted to beat Chara in a foot race. Chara, in an effort to impead his progress, got physical and, in my estimation, went a little too far.
With their minds clearly on their fallen teammate, the Canadiens barely even skated in the third period. That allowed for Milan Lucic to score the shutout buster on habs’ goalie, Carey Price, making the final score 4-1.
Personally, I think it would have been smarter for Chara to stay on the Bruins’ bus, and not take to the media, but give him credit for facing the music, knowing the sometimes vicious Montreal media would attempt to villify him.
The intent means nothing. It’s a hockey play that went horribly wrong. Wrong play in the wrong part of the ice. No one can know if there was any malice on Chara’s part, except for the player himself. And while he could have tripped Pacioretty up, or grabbed hold of his jersey to try and slow him down, it’s Pacioretty’s health that is of utmost concern.
The French all-sports channel, RDS has reported that Pacioretty has suffered a Grade III concussion and has a possible neck fracture. These all both possibly career threatening injuries. The NHL has scheduled a hearing, by phone, with Chara at noon today. Because a game misconduct was assessed, a hearing is required.
Zdeno Chara is arguably one of the scariest players in the league, but , to this point in his career, he has by no means been a prototypically dirty player. However, knowing he has a mean streak, what is the line that draws a player over that edge? What drove Matt Cooke, Jarko Ruutu or Sean Avery over to the dark side? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
UPDATE: According to the Canadiens’ public relations department, Max Pacioretty has suffered a fracture of the C4 vertebrae, as well as a Grade III concussion. To quantify the severity of the injury, the C1 vertebrae is located at the base of the skull, and is the most vulnerable (same one fractured in horse back riding accident by the late Christopher Reeve.) The C7 is the least dangerous and is near the beginning of the spine. Pacioretty’s injury falls in the middle of the neck. While no neck injury is unimportant, like Eric Cole, there will be a long road ahead before Pacioretty can return to the Canadiens.