Los Angeles, Calif. -- Well, not much has happened this week, right?
Hard to know where to start in the Hawks/Ducks game. Let’s go with the most controversial and work our way through it.
I don’t believe James Wisniewski was out to hurt anybody. That doesn’t make the hit he delivered on Brent Seabrook any better, it just doesn’t make him the worst guy in the world. If Alexander Ovechkin was reckless, than at least, Wiz was as well. At worst, it was dirty. Here’s the question I have for the referees: If that kind of charge doesn’t draw a double minor or a major, what does? I like Wisniewski as much as the next guy, but coincidences don’t happen often. Seabrook hit Corey Perry, and seconds later Wiz nails Seabrook. That’s retaliation, no matter what he says. Still doesn’t mean he wanted to knock him out. Wisniewski apologized in a statement, but he said he was shocked to receive an eight-game suspension. NHL discipline chief Colin Campbell said part of it was due to Wisniewski being a repeat offender.
For my money, the non-call on Brent Sopel was the worst call I’ve seen in the NHL this season. The game is so fast, which means calls will be missed, but when a puck goes up in the air like that, and the whole building is watching it come down, there should be no missing it. Sopel got hit from behind before he touched the puck. Simple as that. Here’s Sopel’s take after the game: “I thought it was pretty evident I was jumping for the puck and he pushed me down,” Sopel said. “I turned around and it’s in the net. I’m leaving my feet to get the puck, you can’t push somebody. You have to blow it down [blow the whistle] or something.”
Now for the first controversy of the day: Corey Crawford starting in net. For the life of me, I can’t figure this one out. Antti Niemi needs every piece of confidence and playing time he can get. To me, and I’m just an observer, this is a slap in the face. If he can’t go back-to-back with just a 30-minute bus ride between games, then forget about the next 2 1/2 months. Crawford played well, besides the miscue on the Ducks’ second goal, but I still don’t get it.
I know there are Hawk fans not happy with the players’ reaction to Wisniewski’s hit. Count me in. Nick Boynton has been here for five minutes and he takes care of it? What happens if Wiz isn’t on the ice for the final shift? No payback? Adam Burish said just two days ago that he wanted to jump over the boards and go after Ovechkin after the hit on Brian Campbell but could not because Ovechkin was kicked out. Well, here was his chance. Now I don’t know how much Burish and Wisniewski were on the ice together after the hit, but the point still stands: Someone should have challenged him earlier. I understand the friendship the Hawks still have with him, but that didn’t stop Wiz from delivering his blow. And Bob Probert once told me, “there are no friends once the game starts.”
Albeit very late, kudos to Boynton for jumping his former teammate. After the game, Boynton was sporting a huge, bloody, gash near his left temple. Ugly. He was very honest about, basically, losing the fight:
“I’m friendly with a lot of guys, but on the ice it’s different. The game was close for a long time there, but when it’s 4-2, it’s something that should be done. Just wish I could have done a better job of it, that’s all … It’s a dirty hit. There’s no question about it. The Ovechkin hit wasn’t questionable. That one wasn’t questionable. … They are definitely dirty plays. There is no need for it in the game.” Boynton said he couldn’t get his arms loose to deliver some blows.
The referee wouldn’t talk to Sopel about the non-call, so Jonathan Toews had to do it. “It was one opinion against another,” Toews said. To Toews’ credit, he wouldn’t put the blame on the referees. He is still looking for the Hawks to play better. As for the Wisniewski hit on Seabrook, “We’re not happy about that, obviously,” Toews said. “A lot of guys in this locker room know the guy that did it. It becomes pretty personal when something like that happens. He wasn’t skating in from the blue line for any other reason than to run him over. I don’t know what is [a major penalty] if that’s not … I don’t understand how you see something like that and don’t identify the fact that he’s trying to hurt one of our players.”