Friday, April 17, 2009

And so it begins...

It, of course, is referring to the general asshattery and douchebaggery we knew would come from Montreal in this series where they are clearly outgunned. I had the good fortune of being in attendance for last night's game and I am proud to report there were very few Montreal fans present and those that were remained silent. The game was nothing like the two previous Montreal games I attended this year (games 1 and 2 in Boston) as the visiting fans were limited and nowhere near as brave in their chanting.

Last night's game started off fine with Boston taking control early and the crowd being very supportive... right up until Montreal scored at the end of the second. The goal took a lot out of the crowd and the tying goal near the end of the second took the rest. You could tell the fans were rattled and worried about history repeating itself... the Bruins weren't helping matters any as they were unable to win any faceoffs in the third or even control the puck. Needless to say, it was not looking good for the Bruins until the 10 minute mark or so when they finally seemed to awake from their slumber. Montreal took back to back icings and the crowd started stepping up the cheering and the 'Carey' chants... two minutes later, Boston scores and the place is rocking once again for the remainder. Once Chara netted that PPG, the pall on the arena seemed to lift and confidence was restored... a confidence I think will carry over into tomorrow's game.

Something else that may carry over is the dirty tactics used by Montreal. With 20 seconds remaining, Lucic stepped in front of a Schneider cross-ice pass and took off down the boards towards the empty net... seeing he didn't have the angle, he passed back to a waiting Kessel who buried it and iced the game. Understandably he started celebrating (nothing over the top mind you) at which point Maxim Lapierre shoved him into the boards, sparking off a scrum. Somehow, matching penalties were doled out to Lapierre and Lucic despite Maxim's obvious instigation and unsportsmanlike conduct. No matter though... game is in hand, just have to close out the final seconds.

Julien, suspecting foul play from Montreal, took the high road and iced a quintet devoid of size or fight (no Chara, Lucic or Thornton) to show that Boston had no intent at gooning it up. Of course, Montreal decided to send a message as the final siren was blowing as Kostopoulos (who has already been suspended for boarding and severely injuring Toronto's Mike Van Ryn) throws a blatant elbow at the chin of Matt Hunwick. Fortunately, the elbow did not connect and the young D avoided the potential for serious injury. However, the attempt was not missed by Hunwick's teammates as a scrum commenced after the whistle which led to Hunwick being tangled up with Komisarek. An official gets between the two and grabs their sweaters, thus allowing for Komi to reach across and literally eye-gouge Hunwick multiple times, all in full view of the official. Needless to say, not penalty was called for this. According to Peter Chiarelli, Komisarek removed his glove and was poking at Hunwicks eyes with his bare hand. Though there is no video to support this chain of events, there is a picture which certainly indicates PC's interpretation of the situation is accurate. Video of the elbow and initial eye-gouge can be seen here:

Now as I see it, there are two things to note in all this...
1 - Montreal fans love to call Lucic a coward while eternally defending the actions of Komisarek. Their logic is as follows... last playoffs, Komisarek should not have fought Lucic since it would be a talent loss would go in our favor. Perfectly understandable and logical. However, the same people call Lucic a coward for not fighting the no-talent Georges Laraque despite it being an obvious talent imbalance for Boston. The other issue is the fact the Komisarek will NEVER defend his actions with Lucic or Chara, the two Bruins who are near his size (6'5, 240lbs). He will, however, gladly mix it up with smaller players like Hunwick (5'11, 190lbs) and Krejci (6'0, 175lbs). Now who is the real coward here?

2 - Will the NHL actually stick to its guns? Yesterday they suspended Philly goon Daniel Carcillo for a punch to the back of the head on a faceoff in the closing seconds of a decided game. They also fined Flyers coach John Stevens $10K for his part in the 'message-sending'. This playoff season, the NHL is attempting to crackdown on 'message-sending' late in decided games and discussed the matter with all the playoff teams. Here is Colin Campbell's take on the matter:
We held a conference call Monday with the general managers and coaches of playoff teams and told them explicitly we would not tolerate attempts by clubs to 'send a message' late in a game when the outcome had been determined," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior executive vice president of hockey operations.
Organizations -- players and coaches -- will be held accountable for such actions.

To me, that says that the actions taken by Lapierre, Kostopoulos and Komisarek all merit punishment, whether it be fine or suspension. Problem is... in Philly, they suspended a 4th-line fighter that will have little impact on the series... with Montreal, it will be their top D man which will have a major impact on the game. In order to be consistent, Campbell NEEDS to suspend Komisarek for his actions but history and realism tells me that this will not be the case. As it is, Campbell has already been quoted as saying this on the matter...
People take things out of different incidents last night (and say:) 'Oh boy! Same thing (as Philadelphia-Pittsburgh)! How many games are you going to suspend him?' You've got to let the games unfold. You've got to let hockey be hockey, playoffs be playoffs. You've got to let the energy flow. And then, when they cross that line, you do what you have to do.
Certainly sounds to me like he is going to let the blatant late hit, elbowing attempts and eye-gougin happen after the whistle has blown while punishing people for punches during the game. Certainly makes sense to me!

Man, it must be nice to be a Montreal player and fan... knowing you can get away with ANYTHING!

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