It is really hard to figure out how I want to talk about this game. The Penguins scored first and held a 2-1 lead with less than two minutes left and coughed up a pair of goals including a game-winner from Zdeno Chara with only 13 seconds left. Games like that are ones you hate to let get away but in the gran scheme of an 82 game season those things are going to happen. If that was just it then this would be a pretty straight forward recap. Alas, that was not all that happened. Far from it actually.
It all started from the beginning of the game when Brooks Orpik took an opportunity to hit Loui Eriksson and the hit knocked Eriksson out for the rest of the game. The game got really physical from there and you could tell the Bruins really didn't like the Orpik hit and they were going really hard at the Penguins every chance they got. Let me make sure it is clear that they did nothing dirty or intentionally bad in the immediate aftermath, just a really physical game from that point on.
About five minutes later Shawn Thornton tried to take things into his own hands and try to get Orpik to throw down for what he did. Orpik didn't want to, because he laid a clean hit, and Thornton went to the box. The Penguins scored on the following power play. It wasn't over from there. About five minutes later James Neal was getting a call for kneeing (I will get to this later) and this is what happened after the play:
As you can see while Orpik was passively engaged with another player Thornton comes in and slew foots him, puts his stick in his face, and punches him all while Orpik wanted nothing to do with the situation. What happened was that Orpik was knocked (probably) unconscious and had to be taken to the hospital on a stretcher.
Not even sure where to begin on this. To say this is why some people don't respect the NHL or think this is why the NHL is a secondary sport and doesn't get taken seriously is about right. This is probably as close to assault on ice as it gets. Check that, it was an assault on ice.
You guys all know by now that I am not a fan of fighting in the NHL. While I don't think all fight are bad I think that a majority of them are dumb and meaningless and should be taken out of the game. Deryk Engelland and Milan Lucic fought right before this and it didn't solve anything and while I know they are really unrelated I don't get why it is OK to fight in hockey. I know it is an old school thought but actual Hockey Night in Canada analysis was blaming Orpik for not fighting Thornton for getting himself into this position. Just embarrassing.
Stuff like this is exactly what is wrong with the NHL and until they want to take it seriously stuff like this is going to continue to happen. Thornton is going to get suspended and probably will for double-digit game which is good but more needs to be done. I have been saying it for some time but the NHL needs to implement a system where the team forfeits the roster spot of a suspended player. How bad would that hurt if the Bruins had to play with one less player for 10 games? Do you think that would send a message to the coaches to get the players in line? I think so.
I guess the biggest question I have after this is how do the Bruins players look Thornton in the eyes after this game? What do they say to him? I am sure they will say all the right things in the media but if they saw what happened (id they didn't, they will) how do they say that things that like are OK?
I know Thornton said that it was a mistake and that isn't what he was trying to do but when you skate almost half the ice to slew foot a player and then punch him repeatedly in the face when he is not trying to come back at you then I think you had someone of an idea of what you were doing. You probably knew what you were going to do. Emotion get the best of everyone but this was a little more than that.
Football is largely regarded as the most physically sport in America. I know we can argue about what sport is the hardest and what sport is the most physical but what other sport stops the game so people can throw punches at each other? Why is that OK? The NHL wants to take concussions seriously but in the same breath they let players intentionally punch each other in the face while nobody does anything about it? I get the "they know what they are getting themselves into" but that doesn't mean it should be OK.
Now this just wasn't about the Thornton hit. I talked above that Neal went off with a kneeing penalty and it was actually a knee to the head of Brad Marchand. Here is the hit: