Daily Hab-it: Lost in the horrifying shuffle
Published Wednesday, March 9, 2011 4:24AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
It would be impossible for me to talk about the impressive Canadiens 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night without addressing what was, in my relatively minor 10-year career, the scariest moment I've witnessed at a professional hockey game.
As Max Pacioretty lay strewn on the ice after having his head driven into the corner of the glass by Zdeno Chara, as he lay there motionless for minute after excruciating minute, there was about 30 seconds where I believed the young man might be dead.
His cheek lying on the cold ice with no reaction and the interminable amount of time he stayed like that took me out of my journalist's shell. I barely know Max Pacioretty any better than any of you, so the feeling you must have had watching that on your television screens or live in the building were probably no different than mine.
I was honestly frightened, an emotion I am not mentally prepared to experience at a hockey game.
The Canadiens provided a relatively quick update to reassure people in the press box and watching at home that Pacioretty was not seriously hurt early in the third period, but that information was never announced in the Bell Centre, a glaring oversight on the part of the team.
So what about the hit?
I'm afraid my opinion of it is not exactly clear cut, because it's not a clear cut situation.
I've watched the hit at least 10 times, and I still can't find anything that makes it obvious to me what Chara's true intent was. I've read his comments, even the one where he talks about Pacioretty jumping, and if you look at the hit again I think it's somewhat obvious that Chara misspoke.
It would be easy, and perhaps even justified, to want to vilify Chara for committing an act that I thought for a brief moment may have been fatal. But I'm not prepared to do that.
I can't convince myself that Chara wanted that exact outcome. He wanted something, but not that.
He must have seen who it was he was chasing after that loose puck against, and he clearly wanted to finish his check. Yes, Pacioretty had whacked the puck down the ice long before, but hits that far after the fact happen pretty regularly in an NHL hockey game.
Now, I didn't speak to Chara about this, nor can I get inside his head, but my best guess would be that his initial intent was to put Pacioretty into the Bruins bench. It would explain his arm movement and just about everything else that went into the hit, except Chara ran out of real estate.
That's Chara's fault, not realizing where on the bench he was, if indeed that's what he was trying to do. But either way, he should be aware of his surroundings in that situation.
I'm not sure how this will be dealt with, but one thing I'm positive on is that a large group of people will be left unhappy. Bruins fans who feel the injury was the unfortunate result of random circumstance, and Canadiens fans who feel Chara was out for the ultimate revenge. I feel the play is best described as poorly executed intent, one with dire, gut wrenching consequences.
Eller's coming out party
If that play had never happened, I would have to believe that the talk on everyone's lips Wednesday would be Lars Eller. His first two-goal game was a big one for his team, and may very well have signalled his arrival as an impact player for the Canadiens. Not an impact player in the traditional, trade deadline sense, but rather the literal sense, as in someone who can make a real impact over the final stretch.
Eller's first goal of the night was a result of doing something I feel he has done with relative consistency all season, and that's aggressively going to the net. Adam McQuaig had his back to Eller and had no idea he was coming, while Matt Bartkowski simply lost a puck battle to him in front. But the second goal of the first period for Eller showed something he's struggled with this season: poise. And as Cosmo Kramer once eloquently said, poise counts.
After Andrei Kostitsyn deftly created a turnover in the Boston end and Travis Moen got him the puck with a heads up whack at it, Eller found himself alone at the side of the net in an awkward shooting position. Instead of rushing a bad shot, Eller made a fantastic play to spin his body while working the puck from backhand to forehand and putting it in to the top corner.
Poise counts, and poise is borne from confidence.
Eller was unable to revel too much in his landmark game afterwards because of his concern for Pacioretty, at least not while I was near him, but you have to feel that the timing for him to be coming out of his shell could not be better.
Off the roller coaster
Everyone talks about the pressure Carey Price was under at the start of this season, and rightfully so, he had a lot. But the pressure Eller was feeling should not be discounted either.
As the premiere asset coming back in exchange for Jaroslav Halak, Eller had a feeling he needed to show his new city at least a glimpse of his abilities very quickly. But he rode the Jacques Martin rookie roller coaster and bounced around from line to line and from centre to wing, often times being benched late in games because the trust level was simply not there.
Eller never complained, not once, and continuously said the onus was on him to gain that trust.
Well, he now has four goals and two assists in the seven games he's played between Kostitsyn and Moen after getting only three goals and six assists in his first 55 games.
After the game, Martin was asked about Eller and he said he has no problem putting his line out against anyone from the opposition. He mentioned how he, with the option of last change, sent them out against David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton on more than a few occasions.
Yes, the game was well in hand, but Eller and his linemates have created depth at forward for Martin where it didn't exist before. David Desharnais has been excellent, but Martin still doesn't trust him to face just anyone.
That used to be the case for Eller, but it's not now.
And in his next game Thursday, he'll have an opportunity to show the St. Louis Blues what a mistake they made by trading him away.