October 30 2009 11:08PM
When Dion Phaneuf flattened Kyle Okposo during a pre-season game, there was much ado about the supposed obligations of the player on the giving end of the thundering checks. Playing a supporting role in that particular case was the other half of the debate, namely the immediate quest for blood vengeance on the part of the club whose player was vicitimized by the jolt.
The wisdom of the latter philosophy was called into question once again Friday night when the Canadiens paid a visit to the Blackhawks. During the first period, Montreal's Matt D'Agostini was making his way out of his own zone when he was clobbered by Chicago's Andrew Ladd. That drew the obligatory response from Kyle Chipchura, who wasted no time dropping the gloves and going after Ladd. (Try to ignore how badly out of sync the clip is)
Leaving aside all the usual tiresome debates after such collisions (in summation, Camp A says the hit was dirty; Camp B says the recipient should have kept his head up) let's focus in on Chipchura's reaction. Players coming to the rescue of woozy teammates are usually widely praised for their actions. Something about it being bad for morale to not show suitable outrage when a comrade has been wronged. But honestly, what good could have come to Chipchura, D'Agostini and the rest of the Canadiens from Friday's dubious quest for vengeance?
Let's take these in order:
1) As anyone who has followed the Calgary Hitmen is aware, Ladd is a pretty devastating fighter which means Chipchura was hopelessly overmatched. So unless Chipchura was hoping Ladd would crack a knuckle when smacking him in the jaw, the Montreal player wasn't at all in a good position to teach the Hawks winger a lesson for his indiscretions or discourage him from taking future liberties.
2) D'Agostini had all he could do to get back on his feet and he may have been hard-pressed to identify his teammates in that situation, never mind feel gratitude to them for avenging his honour.
3) For the Habs as a whole, this could have played out two ways. The hit could have been deemed totally legal and Chipchura ran the risk of racking up an instigator penalty, a bonus penalty for picking a fight while wearing a visor and who knows what else for bushwhacking Ladd. Or, as was the case, Ladd could have been penalized (curiously, he was assessed an elbowing major) and anything Chipchura did (which as it turns out, wasn't much) could only negate or minimize any advantage to Montreal as a result of the original penalty.
As it turns out, Chipchura was slapped with only a minor by referees who were obviously embarrassed by his pugilistic attempts but that was enough to turn a potential five-minute power play into a delayed three-minute advantage. The Canadiens failed to score on the shortened power play and wound up losing by a goal.
Instead of making so much fuss after the hit, maybe a Canadien could have found time to yell out a warning to D'Agostini before impact, seeing as how Ladd's flight path was directly in front of the Montreal bench?
The Blackhawks, by the way, were relatively underwhelming in Friday's contest, which only reinforces how wide open the Western Conference is right now. Through Friday's action, here's how the West stacks up in terms of percentage of possible points earned (the straight points standings are so misleading at this time of the year when some teams have played 40 per cent more games than others).
- Colorado .786
- Calgary .682
- San Jose .679
- Phoenix .667
- Chicago .654
- Dallas .654
- Los Angeles .643
- Edmonton .577
- Columbus .542
- Vancouver .500
- St. Louis .500
- Detroit .500
- Nashville .458
- Anaheim .409
- Minnesota .308