MONTREAL So where to fall, opinion-wise, on a hit that looked so dire, so dangerous and so potentially deadly on first blush?
Zdeno Chara was battling with Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty -- a guy who has done a pretty good job of wearing a black Habs villain hat this season -- near the Bell Centre benches when a quick flick of his left forearm turned disastrous.
The Bruins captain was slightly behind the play and was riding the Habs player out against the side wall, as hes done 1,000 times before. If Chara lets up on Pacioretty and allows the winger to get in for a fifth Canadiens goal then it would be on the Boston defensemen for soft play. Instead, the 6-foot-9 defenseman finished his check.
Pacioretty went head and neck first into the stanchion dividing the Montreal bench from the Boston bench, and spent 10 minutes motionless on the ice before he was wheeled off on a stretcher.
Scary stuff for all members of the Bruins and Canadiens. Moments like that always have a put it in proper perspective kind of effect.
The news from Paciorettys agent Alec Schall that his Montreal client will be okay in the long term was welcome information. The 14-goal scorer probably had a concussion, but would otherwise be okay.
Cold as it is to say, the favorable Pacioretty diagnosis will play into any potential supplemental discipline for Chara over the next 24 hours.
While there was an interference penalty, and an injury requiring a game misconduct, many other little pieces of information are on Charas side.
Start first with the game refs that saw nothing wrong beyond the interference they originally ruled.
"It was unfortunate, said 43-year-old Mark Recchi, who has seen plenty of nasty hits over the years. If Pacioretty gets hit on the other side of the ice where there's no stanchion nothing happens to him. He just keeps going. It's unfortunate.
The refs said there was nothing dirty about the play. He just rode the check out and unfortunately the turnbuckle was a part of it. The player got hurt, so they had to call it a major penalty.
The refs didnt feel it was an overtly dirty play, Chara has a fairly clean reputation in the NHL, and the injury doesnt appear to be dire for Pacioretty. That can all play into any NHL decision. There's a chance, all things considered, Chara is saddled with with nothing more than the time he's already served.
The 32-year-old defenseman stressed that he isnt the kind of player bent on hurting the opposition, and it was simply a case of wrong place at the wrong time.
Thats a bit debatable, given the caution that Chara should use in that area of the ice, and its even doubly so given the past between the B's captain and the Montreal rabblerouser. After all it was Pacioretty that scored the overtime game-winner in Bostons last loss to the Habs in Montreal, and then shoved an enraged Chara while celebrating with his teammates.
Was it coincidence that put Pacioretty on the receiving end of his hit, or was this Charas example of comeuppance?
We were racing for the puck and battling for position. As the puck went by I was riding him out and it was very unfortunate, said Chara, who showed zero emotion after another unsatisfying loss to Montreal. At the time I was pushing on him he kind of leaned, he jumped a little bit and then hit the glass stanchion. It was really unfortunate.
In that situation everything is moving so fast and youre not planning to do that. Its not my style to hurt somebody. I always play hard and play physical. I have never tried to hurt anybody, so I hope hes okay.
NHL discipline chief Colin Campbell will recuse himself for this ruling, given that his son Gregory plays for the Bruins. But the league will no doubt have people angry no matter which way it decides.
In Montreal, plenty want to see the 6-foot-9 Chara drawn and quartered. In Boston, all they saw was a hard hit that, unfortunately, resulted in injury.
There could be a lot of hurt feelings before things are said and done.