Morning Skate 39: A Chara suspension proves nothing

Morning Skate 39: A Chara suspension proves nothing

By Joe Haggerty
MONTREAL There isnt a lot of precedentforthis gruesome Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty incident from Tuesday nights game, and it appears theres going to be some vociferous disagreement no matter what theNHLdoes.Chara and Pacioretty have been locked in a dangerous dance for much of this season that reaches back to the young Habs forward shoving the enraged, towering Bs Captain after an overtime win for the Canadiens in Montreal two months ago and that painful tangohad a gruesome ending on the Bell Centre ice in Bostons 4-1 loss Tuesday night.Chara shoved Pacioretty near the Bruins bench with an extended forearm, and sent the wobblyHabs forward flying into nearby stanchion in an area thats always been a danger zone for high-flying, fast-skating hockey players.The gruesome, gasp-worthy crashleft Pacioretty unconscious and unmoved on the ice for 10 minutes before he was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, and Habs officials said Wednesday morning their player has suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced C5 fracture of his vertebrae from the collision.Its clearly a serious injury and could be career-threatening given the gravity of any injury dealing with the neck and spine, and that can be a factor in the supplemental discipline decisions made by the NHL and Assistant Director of Game Operations Mike Murphy.But there are so many other factors that the league has to mix into the pot before making a complex, controversial decision. What was Zdeno Charas intent and how much of the hits aftermath was simply a result of the games speed and intensity?Chara has been suspended for a grand total of one game in a long, All-Star career spanning 913gamesfor the Ottawa Senators and Bruins, and boaststhe kind of Irish Spring clean whistle record the NHL always looks favorably upon. He simply isnt a dirty player despite whats being muttered about the 6-foot-9 monster along the snowylengths ofRue de St. Catherine this morning.At the end of the day it was an interference call against Chara, and was nowhere near the realm of elbowing, head shots, boarding, hitting from behind or any otherdastardlyinfractions thatreside as hot button actions within todays NHL. No one can peerinto the mind of Chara to deduce whether his actions were the perfectly evil hit at the exact wrong time near the treacherous stanchion area, but his body of work over a starry career would say completely the opposite. They would instead proveChara was playing the body to slow Pacioretty down from flying into the offensive zone with the puck, and it was the wrong place at the wrong time.What happens if Chara simply lets the player go, and he scores another goal at the end of the second period in a game that's already reached "bowser" category.If the NHL doesnt want hitting near the danger areas near the benches perhapsthere should be black-and-yellow police tape or a plastic bubble around the bench area prohibiting physical contact anywhere near them. A suspension or disciplinary action against Chara when it was simply an accident of circumstance does nothing to prevent it from happening again and it certainly isnt going to help Pacioretty in his long road to recuperation in Montreal.The bottom line is this: the NHL cant prove mal intent, the league is always going to rule in favor of their star players that adhere to the proper rules of conduct and safety in the NHL and there will always be violence and regrettableinjuries within the game of hockey.There is no way Chara wanted to break Paciorettys neck or seriously physically impair him, and knew that would happen after an otherwise pedestrian one-on-one battle for the puck on a simple interference call. There's no evidence to support either supposition.Things happen in the NHL, and this was one of those regrettable, unfortunate accidents that can transpirewhen big strong bodies tangle in the wrong part of the frozen sheet. A suspension would assign blame to Chara when there doesnt need to be any, and would send the wrong kind of message.Fans all over the NHL should focus their energy and thoughts on hoping that Pacioretty makes a full recovery and plays hockey again as Erik Cole did after fracturing his vertebrae with the Carolina Hurricanes. The passionate, frothy calls for suspensions and justice simply dont apply this time around with Chara.On to the links:Mike Milbury thinks that time may be running out on Sidney Crosby, and everyone Ive talked to about Sid the Kid has said the exact same thing.Adam Kaufman chats with Trent Whitfield, who has recovered from an Achilles tendon injury to have an excellent season for the Providence Bruins.Want the story about how Alex Ovechkin made his way back to the world of Twitter? Well here it is.TSNs Bob McKenzie knocked it out of the park in his assessment of the Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty hit from last night, and deserves a little link love and appreciation.SI.coms Michael Farber sends a love letter to Pittsburgh Penguins hatchet man Matt Cooke. Wonder if he felt the need for a long, hot shower after writing this piece?\

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month


Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.