Pittsburgh and Boston Went Overboard Last Night on the Ice
Less than 30 seconds into the game, Brooks Orpik laid a huge hit on Loui Eriksson. We all know Orpik is a human freight train, and levels people with regularity. The hit on Eriksson was legal as he was finishing his check in open ice, already committed to lowering the boom. Eriksson unfortunately went to the locker room and has now been diagnosed with another concussion.
Here's the Orpik hit on Eriksson...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvteW6mvasA
After this hit is when things began to get ugly. Zdeno Chara took an extra whack at Chris Kunitz which sent him to the penalty box. Deryk Engelland and Milan Lucic got into a fight with each other just over 7 minutes into this first period.
Shawn Thornton decided to stand up for his teammate and go after Orpik, which is what you're supposed to do. However, Orpik would not engage in a fight with Thornton and that ticked off the Boston left winger who received a 2-minute roughing penalty for continuing to antagonize Orpik and hound him. Should he have fought? Maybe, but he doesn't actually have to engage Thornton, and he instead decided to focus on playing the game instead of acknowledging the clear fact that Thornton was gunning for him.
Finally things came to a boiling point at the 11-minute mark of the period, 9:01 remaining to be exact. Sidney Crosby tripped up Brad Marchand. No penalty was called, but James Neal came by and kneed Marchand in the head. He received a 2-minute penalty for that. I surmise Neal's knee may have been payback for the hit Marchand made that knocked him into the boards in a somewhat vulnerable position in last year's playoff series. However, Neal will probably be suspended a couple games for this hit.
After the whistle blew, a crowd gathered in the Pittsburgh end of the ice, the likes of which included Orpik. Shawn Thornton skated out of his way to join the scrum after the whistle. He came up behind him, slew-footed Orpik, pulled him to the ice, and sucker punched him twice. It looked like he either hit Orpik in the temple area and/or that his head bounced off the ice. Those two punches knocked him out cold.
You can see the entire sequence here.
Orpik's hit, while powerful, looked to be legal. Eriksson had his head down, and thus why Orpik ended up getting a piece of his head when he laid the hit on him.
What should the fines and suspensions be? Neal and Thornton should both expect suspensions. Yes I'm a Penguins fan, but Neal's knee on Marchand, even though he may have seen a chance to pay him back for last June, wasn't necessary. He could've very easily skated around Marchand, he had plenty of room to alter his line.
In my opinion, Thornton should expect to not see the ice at least until after New Years, perhaps not even before the break for the Olympics in February. What he did was totally unacceptable, and a black eye for the NHL. Keep in mind that if you or I were to do what Thornton did to someone on the street, we would be arrested for assault. That's what this was. Thornton didn't care about playing the game, he just wanted to destroy Orpik. He received a match penalty and game misconduct and was rightfully ejected.
Orpik was knocked unconscious, and I am disgusted at the fans at the TD Garden who can be heard cheering when Orpik is knocked out. That shows how classless the fans in Boston can be. Lost in all this though, I would be short changing this story if I didn't say thank you to Patrice Bergeron, who actually helped the medics pull the stretcher down the ice and over to where Orpik was laying, that is class and shows true sportsmanship. Orpik was taken to a Boston hospital where he was conscious and alert as updates came throughout the course of the game. At last update, he was released from the hospital and will be able to travel back to Pittsburgh with the team according to head coach Dan Bylsma.
Until next time, I'm Bryan Kramer for The Blitzburgh Pit Stop saying Mr. Bettman, it's time to grow a pair and throw the book at Shawn Thornton for going way overboard with his actions in this game.
BK over and out.