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Thursday, February 10, 2011
Daily Debate: Did Habs-B's fights cross line? Was Getzlaf's hit on Hamhuis legal?

By Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun

Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun recap last night's wild Habs-Bruins clash and debate whether Ryan Getzlaf's hit on Dan Hamhuis was a legal one:

Burnside: Wow, a perfectly wacky Wednesday in the NHL was topped off by one of the wildest games in recent memory. We talked about the clash between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins yesterday, but did you imagine the carnival that unfolded last night in Boston with goalies Carey Price and Tim Thomas meeting at center ice for an old-fashioned sweater pull?

The Bruins emerged with an 8-6 victory and now lead the Habs by four points in the Northeast Division, but the bad blood will no doubt linger into their next meeting. The two teams combined for 14 goals and 187 penalty minutes. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a game featured at least 14 goals and 180 PIMs was in 1981 in a tilt between Washington and the Quebec Nordiques. That should give you an idea of how rare Wednesday was. I know you have some thoughts on some of the activities at the end of the game.

LeBrun: At this point, that was the game of the year. Despite the close score, it was really a dominating victory by the Bruins, and not just on the scoreboard. Boston physically overwhelmed the Canadiens. Montreal had no answer along the boards or in front of the net or when the gloves were off. If you're Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier and know a playoff date with the Bruins is a possibility, you have to consider trying to add some toughness before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. A call to Ottawa for Chris Neil, perhaps?

But there were three fights I didn't like in which I think the game crossed the line. I didn't like seeing David Krejci dropped by Benoit Pouliot. Neither is really a fighter, and the Bruins deserve to be mad about that one. I was also thoroughly disappointed in B's tough guy Shawn Thornton for jumping Roman Hamrlik and in Boston blueliner Johnny Boychuk for taking on Jaroslav Spacek. Boychuk doesn't fight a lot, but you know how little the two Czech blueliners fight for Montreal.

It was still a terrific, old-school night in a great Original Six rivalry, and the B's will never look back on their Northeast Division lead.

Burnside: I agree on the fights and that the Bruins will now walk away with the Northeast Division title. But it wasn't the only controversial game of the night.

In Vancouver, the Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf crushed Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis with what I thought was a clean hit behind the Vancouver net. The hit left Hamhuis sprawled on the ice. Depending on the severity of Hamhuis' injury, the Canucks could be scrambling for help after being flush with defensemen to start the season.

You know I am often hard on the NHL for not coming down hard enough on dangerous plays and players, but I thought this was just an old-fashioned hockey hit against the boards. Getzlaf, who was playing in his first game since suffering fractured sinus bones, didn't leave his feet, and Hamhuis turned just enough that it looked like his shoulder went awkwardly into the boards. It was tough for the Canucks, who lost 4-3 to the surging Ducks. If Hamhuis is out for any length of time, will GM Mike Gillis join the fray in looking for defensive help before the trade deadline?

LeBrun: I'm hoping Hamhuis is not out for long; the Canucks can't afford that. I'm told the NHL looked at the hit very closely, but came to the conclusion it was not suspendable. I won't go as far as you to say it was totally "clean" because I thought Getzlaf left his feet. But, in the end, Hamhuis was playing the puck and turned his back to an oncoming forechcker. I wonder if the glass in Vancouver is also partly to blame. It didn't seem like there was much give when Hamhuis' face hit it. I hate seeing a player laying on the ice like that after that type of hit, but if you start taking away those hits it's not hockey anymore.

Burnside: Not to quibble with you, but I don't think Getzlaf left his feet until after impact when he was off-balance. But your point is well-taken. The Canucks, fresh from the losses of Keith Ballard and Alexander Edler, are suddenly vulnerable along the blue line. It was the lack of defensive depth that cost them mightily last season in the second round against Chicago. Gillis won't go into the playoffs without being fully armed.

As for the Ducks, they continue to show incredible resilience. No Jonas Hiller in net, but the win pulled them within two points of the Pacific Division lead. And after bolstering their blue line with the reacquisition of Francois Beauchemin on Wednesday, I like their chances of staying in the top eight.

LeBrun: Anaheim is full value for its surprising season. GM Bob Murray said on yesterday's media call that he added a quality defenseman such as Beauchemin because he wanted to reward his team. The Pacific is insane. With a big win against first-place Dallas last night, Phoenix is third, sandwiched between San Jose and Anaheim with 65 points. The resurgent Los Angeles Kings are not too far back with 60 points. The schedule in the latter part of the season is stocked with divisional play. No easy night in this division! The Sharks are now 9-0-1 after last night, and I think they will win the Pacific at this point. The playoff races are wild, my friend. Until tomorrow.