A few weeks back I brought you a list of the top storylines to watch in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And like any article about “storylines to watch,” it was basically just a way to make vague predictions without having to put your credibility on the line. So how have I done so far?
Pretty well, actually. Yeah, I was pretty wrong about the Washington Capitals bowing out early; they finished off the defending champs in overtime last night. But I was pretty right about a few other big stories. For example, at #1 I had “the Battle of Pennsylvania,” and of course the series between the Penguins and Flyers did prove to be huge story. Better yet, I was very right when I suggested that a major question this postseason would be “What Will Shanny Do?” The playoffs so far have been dominated by 1970s-style hockey violence, with players getting speared, crosschecked, elbowed, boarded, sucker-punched, and blindsided. And, sure enough, all eyes have turned to Brendan Shanahan to solve the problem.
Today, in case you happened to miss all this violence, Total Pro Sports will get you all caught up. Behold: The 15 Dirtiest Hits From Round 1 Of The 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s got all the hits from the first round that earned suspensions, plus a bunch of others that probably should have.
This hit from Pittsburgh's James Neal on Philadelphia's Sean Couturier from Game 3 wouldn't be so bad on it's own. It's really just a charging penalty. But when you pair it with another incident involving Neal that happened only 42 seconds later (which you'll see soon enough), it's clear that Neal was on the attack in Game 3. So it definitely merited a suspension.
15. Neal charges Couturier
Apparently the Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom didn't know you're not allowed to crosscheck opponents in the face. Shanahan gave him a refresher on the rules, however, by suspending the enigmatic center for 1 game. If Peverley had actually been hurt, I'm sure the suspension would have been at least 3 games.
14. Backstrom crosschecks Peverley's face
This is one that hockey people love to debate. The Don Cherry/Mike Milbury types say it's Brian Boyle's responsibility to keep his head up. But the hit is obviously late (the dude just shot the puck) and, moreover, just because a guy has his head down, that doesn't mean you can just knock him into last week. I mean, just because that guy crossing the street isn't paying attention to traffic, that doesn't mean you're entitled to run him over with your SUV.
13. Neil blindsides Boyle
The Sharks' T.J. Galiardi explained this hit by saying that Andy MacDonald is just short, and he couldn't help it if his head lined up with Galiardi's shoulder. And it's true, MacDonald is short. But when it comes down to it, you still have a responsibility not to smash a guy's head into the boards with your shoulder. If that means not finishing a check, then so be it.
12. Galiardi targets MacDonald
After Game 2, Sharks coach Todd McClellan was livid about a supposed sucker punch thrown during a post-game melee by Vladimir Sobotka of the Blues on Dominic Moore. Problem was, the television cameras didn't catch the incident. However, after a week of searching, I finally came across some footage uploaded to YouTube by a fan. And, sure enough, the two are just kind of holding on to each other when, all of a sudden, Sobotka goes ballistic.
11. Sobotka's surprise attack
Explain this one to me: Marc Staal of the Rangers basically punches Jason Spezza in the head as he skates into the zone, but there's no suspension. Hell, there wasn't even a penalty. And it's not like it happened behind the play. Spezza had the freakin puck. Four zebras on the ice and no one saw it?
10. Staal uppercuts Spezza
Well here's one that the league managed to notice. The Canucks' Byron Bitz uses his shoulder to ram Kyle Clifford's face into the glass. Result? Two-game suspension.
9. Bitz rams Clifford's head
Here's the one I mentioned in #15. Only 42 seconds after pounding Couturier, James Neal comes flying back into to defensive zone, speeds right for Claude Giroux, and clearly targets the dude's head. Now, it's not clear if Neal really makes solid contact. In fact, judging by the fact that it takes Giroux about 5 seconds to wobble and fall to the ice, I'd say he probably didn't make solid contact. But the intent was certainly evident. So I'd say Neal was lucky to get off with only a 1-game suspension.
8. Neal tries to take off Giroux's head
The Ragners Carl Hagelin was rightly suspended for 3 games (in addition to receiving a major penalty) for this brutal elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson during Game 2. After all, it's not like the victim had his head down. He was actually bracing himself for a good clean body check. Instead, just before making contact, Hagelin decided to lift his elbow up and drive it into Alfredsson's head. What a douche.
7. Hagelin elbows Alfredsson
From other angles, Aaron Shaw's hit on Mike Smith in Game 2 between the Blackhawks and Coyotes doesn't look so bad. It looked like maybe it was an accident. But when you see it from this angle? Yeah, pretty bad. The Blackhawk forward could easily have avoided making contact with Shaw's head...but he didn't. So he got himself a 3-game suspension.
6. Shaw plows into Smith's head
Here's another one that went completely unnoticed by the crack team of on-ice officials. The San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns just throws a nasty elbow right to the back of Scott Nichol's head. No wonder Game two between the Sharks and Blues ended in a huge brawl (the same one that featured Sobotka's sucker punch).
5. Burns elbows the back of Nichol's head
Hey, Matt Carkner, you're supposed to tell the other guy you're going to fight him before you start throwing haymakers. It's just the sportsmanlike way to do things. That's why they suspended you for 1 game, idiot.
4. Carkner blitzes Boyle
Is there such a thing as a "sucker crosscheck?" Well, there is now, thanks to Arron "One A, Two Rs" Ashram. After the Flyers' Brayden Schenn levels Penguins defenseman Paul Martin with a clean check (though it was charging), Ashram steps in. He crosschecks Schenn in the throat, then hops on top of him (after he's collapsed on the ice) and punches him in the back of the head for good measure. And yet somehow Ashram didn't think what he did was as bad as what Backstrom did (see #14)? I think someone needs a reality check. The goon deserved his 4-game suspension.
3. Ashram sucker crosschecks Schenn
This is the hit that some pundits say started it all. At the end of Game 1 between the Predators and Red Wings, Shea Weber grabs Henrik Zetterberg's head and smashes it into the glass. It was just surreal—made you stop and ask, "wait, when did I flip over to Monday Night Raw?" And yet, no suspension! Just a fine of $2,500, which is nothing to a guy who makes $91,000 per game.
2. Weber goes WWE on Zetterberg
Torres was suspended a whopping 25 games for this vicious hit on Chicago's Marian Hossa. As you can see, Hossa didn't have the puck, he was caught off guard, Torres leaves his feet and, worst of all, targets the head. It's an all around dirty play.
That being said, some people have said the 25 game suspension is too harsh compared to others handed out this postseason. But what those people must not realize is that Raffi Torres has a history of being a dirty bastard. In his explanation of the suspension, Brendan Shanahan cites 5 other head shots delivered by Torres—and that didn't even include the hit on Chicago's Brent Seabrook during the playoffs last year when he was playing for the Canucks. So this 25 game ban was a long time coming.
1. Torres takes out Hossa
cheapshot, Dirty Hit, head shot, hockey, NHL, Stanley Cup Playoffs,