I believe many things caused what happened in Boston the other night. 1.) Johnny Boychuk’s injury just a game prior, and the non- reaction from the team/league for said injury. 2.) Orpik’s big hits on Daniel Paille over the last couple of meetings. 3) Orpik’s reputation for delivering big clean hits. 4.) The continuing spillover of last year’s playoff series. 5.) The refs inability to control a game, again. 6.) The Bruins reputation as a big physical team and always seeming to be giving or receiving controversial hits/situations. 7.) Claude Julien pouring gas on a fire that was hot enough to being with. 8.) The NHL failing to provide deterrents on a regular basis.
Start from the beginning. Grown adults that are professional athletes should be able to leave stuff in the past. Boston carrying a grudge or a fresh agenda to be extra responsive when a hit is laid on a teammate because some team the night before had a questionable hit is dumb. Plain and simple. Boston getting mad because Orpik lays out another Bruins player, again, is dumb. Pittsburgh trying to somehow show that they are a big physical team (when they are not) and trying to avenge a playoff sweep is dumb. I firmly believe Boston is always involved in these types of situations is because of the stigma they carry of being a big, physical, sometimes clean, sometimes not hockey team. Teams get up for that, and want to show them they are tough too, which never leads to anything good because it’s out of character. Teams should be honest and know who they are and not try to be something they are not. In short, everybody needs to let go of the past and not let it affect the future. I always thought you play the game to WIN, not for revenge, because really winning is the best revenge. I mostly blame the coaches and the refs for this entire situation and the resulting injuries and suspensions. An eye for an eye only leaves everybody blind.
Now to the game. 11 seconds into the game Orpik hits Loui Eriksson. Was it clean hit? No. Was it dirty? No. I would categorize it as a hit that the hitters fan base is fine with, and the hittee’s fan base is upset about. It was a hockey play. Did Orpik know it was Eriksson and his prior history? No! I find it hard to believe many players, LEAGUE WIDE, wouldn’t take the opportunity to attempt that hit. That’s Orpik’s roll. Is Orpiik a dirty player? No. He is prolly one of the nicest and classiest guys in the league off the ice and one of most physical on the ice while towing a very fine line.
Note: As the puck comes up the boards it takes a weird bounce I assume, which ultimately leads it to tick Eriksson’s stick. It took a weird bounce which resulted in the puck coming in behind him not in front of him. By that time Orpik is preparing to make a hit. Just prior to the hit Orpik is looking along the boards, then as the puck bounces towards the circle he looks towards Eriksson. In real time Orpik is assuming Loui is making an attempted play towards the puck. He hits him; feet never leave the ice until after initial contact. It was a big hit on a player with a bad health history, unfortunately. This happens over the span of 2 seconds, 11 seconds into a game. Orpik’s eyes are actually following the puck. Not malicious, not premeditated, Orpik, of all people, never wants to injure a player. Those are the facts. What seems to be lost in all of this is how the Bruins reacted. 11 seconds into a game. Chara goes after Dupuis as he enters the zone with a high hit LEAVING HIS FEET! The whistle blows, and then goes after Kunitz in a post whistle scrum. He is mouthing all the way to the box, as Thornton helps Loui to the bench. In the words of Ron Burgundy, "That escalated quickly". This is why I believe they let the emotions of the game prior, and the player who made the hit got the best of them (Bruins). No reason for the escalation so early.
Now after the penalty the next couple of shifts Julien put out Thornton. He offers to fight. Orpik declines and draws a penalty. Talk about insult to injury for Thornton. Oprik never fights to begin with; Thornton is a known fighter, in a class slightly above Orpik. Orpik should not have had to fight him, and didn’t. I’m so sick of a fight breaking out after every big hit anymore, because everybody assues it was dirty. Anybody who says otherwise isn’t looking at this objectively from a mature standpoint. After the penalty, Julien shifts Thornton again. He takes a run at a hit behind the Pens goal as Orpik moved the puck up ice. At this point everyone is well aware of what the hell is going on. The refs need to get the game under control. Issue warnings during a stoppage and at the slightest hint of something bad, hand out 10s and games. Move on. The players can’t handle their own dumb emotion, that’s fine; the refs need to do it for them.
Claude Julien needs to be held accountable and any other coach who does the same stuff with the intention of getting an easily assumed result. NBA coaches get fined and players get suspended when they are subbed into a game for the sole intention of delivering a hard foul or escalation of a fiery situation. NHL coaches are no different. Claude Julien is indeed very guilty for escalating a situation when he should be doing the exact opposite.
Next up is the Neal’s kneeing:
Nothing to say here besides what the hell is Neal thinking while this is happening. No excuse. Dumb and dangerous and showing no maturity or respect. Deserves anything he gets and more. Even if he was justified on a known embellisher and cheap shot artist.
NOTE: same play earlier in the game led to a 5 minute major PK for the Pens, only 2 minute PP for the Pens in last year’s playoff sweep.
Now to Thornton round what is it 2 or 3:
Anybody who says Thornton reaction was in retaliation to Neal’s incident is blind. Thornton had no idea what happened as he was busy playing a puck and going up ice. The whistle blew and at most he just saw Marchand down. As soon as that happened he saw a group up ice, skated behind Orpik and with a slew foot, knocked Orpik to the ice and layed 2-3 punches on him ultimately knocking him out and sending him off to Mass Gen on a stretcher.
Pretty obvious and there is no room in the game for this. He deserves around 25 games. Words can’t describe how stupid and idiotic this is. No excuse for it. Those defending him saying Orpik should’ve fought earlier or he had it coming because of whatever reason are stupid. Two wrongs have never and will never make a right even if Orpik had it coming (which he didn’t). Grow up. The man didn’t want to fight earlier and was very justified in such an opinion. You don’t sneak up from behind someone. This is like the Emery vs. Holtby thing but much worse. The league could've sent a message there but they failed, again. This all happened, though, because the refs and Claude Julien are incompetent doing the simplest of jobs. Acting rationally and maturely and diffusing a situation.
Next up is Dupuis on Kelly:
Nothing to see here besides an unfortunate injury while Dupuis was trying to play a puck to keep it in the offensive zone. Dupuis is a clean player who plays hard and this is the last thing he intended to do. Injuries happen. Not sure why this is even being brought up. It wasn’t a slash; it was on the follow-through of a damn backhand, seriously.