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Five Thoughts: Kunitz and Downie debate; Is Ilya Bryzgalov worn out?

Apr 19, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

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After a night that saw all four road teams win playoff games last night, it’s only fitting that we’re talking about head shots once again. Everyone can thank Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz for that. That’s not all there is to discuss though because, hey, it’s the playoffs and there’s more to playoffs than head shots and suspension debates, right?  RIGHT? All right then.

1. You’d think we would be able to escape the head shot discussions in the postseason with everyone being focused on winning the Stanley Cup. Instead, we’ve been treated to two instances of a player’s head being targeted on a hit thanks to Raffi Torresbrutal hit on Brent Seabrook and now Chris Kunitz elbowing Simon Gagne with ill intent. I get that sometimes you have to play on the edge and that a lot of players are hoping for more respect between each other but it’s pretty clear it’s not going to happen.

Torres getting by without a suspension on a technicality of sorts on his play is bad enough, but don’t expect Kunitz to escape similarly. Kunitz’s hit evoking thoughts of Matt Cooke‘s past transgressions is natural in this case especially with it involving the Penguins but Dan Bylsma has to be furious that his guys go out of their way to take such needlessly selfish actions on the ice when the team needs every guy possible to win games.

2. As for Steve Downie‘s huge hit on Ben Lovejoy even in spite of Downie’s past it’s tougher for me to swallow that one as being a “terrible” hit. With Lovejoy himself saying after the game that he thought the hit was a good, hard hit that he’d expect to have happen means a lot, especially given the opposite tone that Gagne had in his words for Kunitz’s dirty elbow. Both guys will talk with the NHL about their hits but the gut feeling says that Kunitz gets at least one game and maybe two for his elbow while at worst Downie gets a game for charging Lovejoy if he gets anything at all. Spin away Wheel of Justice.

3. Nice of Boston to finally show up in their series and all it took was scoring the first goal (or in this case the first three goals) of the game against Montreal. With these two teams being very defense oriented getting that lead first is huge. During the regular season, Montreal was 32-6-6 when scoring first the 10th best record in the NHL while Boston was 30-6-6 good for 13th in the league. Boston being able to make Montreal battle back is key for them. If they can take Game 4 and even this series up, we’re in line for a raucous series where home ice means nothing. I think everyone aside from Boston and Montreal fans are rooting for as much mayhem as possible.

4. A lot of people will point to Brian Boucher‘s play in goal and how solid he looked for good reason in the Flyers 4-2 win over Buffalo. 35 saves is nothing to sneeze at but let’s give some credit to the Flyers defense for finally playing a strong game in front of their goalie. They played tough and despite the number of shots given up and Boucher stood tall. Getting those kinds of efforts from both goalie and defense while Chris Pronger continues to sit out with a broken hand are inspiring for the team.

5. There are two series in the Western Conference that are at 3-0 and they feature a pair of teams that have been efficient and led their divisions all year beating up on teams that scrapped and fought to get into the playoffs until the final week (or day in Chicago’s case). It can’t be too surprising to see Chicago getting dominated by Vancouver and Phoenix is getting taken out easily as Ilya Bryzgalov looks worn out putting up with the Detroit attack.

The two early goals he allowed in the first period in their 4-2 loss to Detroit made it look like he wasn’t dialed in yet. The guys in front of him didn’t help but it’s possible Bryzgalov is worn down. Bryzgalov has been starting non-stop in goal since March 20 and hasn’t played in just two games since February 1 (28 games). Goalies are built for the long haul but just two games off in the final two months of the season takes its toll.

  1. zeker1966 - Apr 19, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    So Torres’ hit was brutal and Downie’s hit was huge. To me they are the same hit. Downie charged as he left his feet. Torres did not leave his feet, kept his arms down and hit directly into the middle of Seabrook. Seabrook’s head was turned and positioned down that is why Torres’ shoulder hit his head.

    If you actually read the statement by the NHL you’ll have seen that they view such hits as completely allowed under the rules and Rule 48 does not apply. Every time someone lays a big hit on someone and the person goes to the ground someone in the press starts crying “Rule 48, Rule 48″. I swear that you and other press people won’t be happy until there is no hitting in the league. At least it seems that way.

    The point is that heads to get hit and concussions do happen in CLEAN hits. Just because someone has there bell rung doesn’t mean that the hit was illegal and that Rule 48 applies.

    The real menace to the NHL is elbows like that of Kunitz’s elbow. That has to be removed from the game. Hits like Downie’s and Torres’ are part of the game and the players that got hit need to keep their heads up like they were taught as kids.

    • mmuzia - Apr 19, 2011 at 4:42 PM

      I couldn’t agree more, especially on the Torres hit.

      It looked vicious in real-time, but it was a clean, legal hit. I’m wondering what everyone else is seeing that I keep missing.

      • psujay - Apr 19, 2011 at 7:00 PM

        Torres’ hit was legal, Downie’s hit was a 2 minute charging penalty. Kunitz was what we expect from the Pengoons.

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