I hate to say it. Like every self-respecting Habs fan, I love Max Pacioretty. He might just be the Canadiens’ best forward this year – the only guy who comes close is Habs newbie Eric Cole. Patch has ten goals and 19 points so far this season and he might just be the only Hab other than Carey Price who gives his all every night out there on the ice.
But Pacioretty’s hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Kris Letang late in the game Saturday at the Bell Centre sure looked like a suspendable offense. The infamous Rule 48 on head shots is pretty clear – though how it’s administered by NHL discipline boss Brendan Shanahan isn’t nearly so clear. The rule states that – “A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.” (Actually that is one terribly badly written sentence!)
Letang was coming in with the puck, didn’t see Patch coming, and Pacioretty, who was racing along the ice, just smashed into Letang with a rough shoulder to the head. That, by NHL rules, is illegal. Letang lay bloodied on the ice and we now know Pacioretty broke Letang’s nose. The Pens D-man came back in classic old-school hockey fashion and ended up scoring the winning goal in overtime (under equally controversial circumstances).
There was no penalty called on the Pacioretty hit but it was announced Sunday that the Habs forward will have a phone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Shanahan Monday morning and I think Shanahan has to suspend Pacioretty. It was an illegal hit, period.
It’s nice to see that Pacioretty went up to Letang when he returned to the ice and apologized to him – take note of that class move Zdeno Chara! – and it was also classy of Patch to say all the right things after the game.
“I feel terrible that he got hurt and I’m thankful that he came back,” said Pacioretty. ”It’s a quick decision there. He’s coming across the middle, he’s got the puck and is maybe in a scoring opportunity. If I let him go, he could potentially score on us. I knew I had to hit him but I didn’t want the result to be like that. I’m sorry for what happened and I’m glad he’s okay.”
For sure it’s more than a little ironic that Pacioretty is now on the other side of a controversial hit. Last year, major controversy ensued after Chara viciously smashed Patch into a glass partition at the Bell Centre, breaking Pacioretty’s neck vertebrae. Chara was not suspended for the play.
The league totally blew it on the Chara hit and most everyone except the most hardcore Bruins fans know it. But that shouldn’t influence Shanahan’s decision Monday. Pacioretty broke Rule 48 and he should pay the price for what was one mighty dangerous hit.