The NHL has announced that the B's Milan Lucic has been suspended for game three of the series against Montreal.
Many Bruins fans are up in arms, complaining of everything from inconsistency to a conspiracy by the NHL to help the Habs or lengthen the series. Many Habs fans are gloating, saying that this proves that Looch is the goon they have claimed him to be all along. My take? Both are off the mark.
The way I see it is this: both the NHL and the Players Association have been preaching that they want to crack down on blows to the head (partly as a result of Bergeron's concussion). It's like when a player gets his stick parallel to the ice and and hooks the blade around the midsection of the guy in front of him. It doesn't matter if he pulled hard enough to interfere with the progress of the player--it's going to be called every time. The NHL is looking to make a statement here, and what Looch did looked like a violent cross check to the face. Nevermind the fact that nobody was hurt, that he was only defending himself, that it has been the Habs all along who have acted like goons after the whistle not the Bruins, and that it was only his glove that made contact. It looked bad enough that they had to make the call.
In two or three games--when the Bruins are waiting for their next opponent--this will be forgotten.
In fact, I think this works in the Bruins favor. First it gets Byron Bitz into the game. He's got to be chomping at the bit to play and he knows this may be his only chance. I expect him to play like a monster out there. Second, it gives the B's something to get fired up about going into the likeliest game of the series for them to lose. And third, the league did send a message. Not just to Looch but to everyone. This hardly gives the Habs a free ride to continue being goons by raising elbows and bloodying players after the whistle. Rather, I think they may be looking over their shoulder at the referee.
Lastly, for anyone who hasn't followed the Briuns closely I want to say something about Lucic. I've watched all but a handful of his NHL games. Looch is no goon. He will dance when asked and usually win. He will hit hard along the boards. He does not set out to injure anyone. Rather, his hard hits are often beautifully timed to create a turnover or scoring opportunity. Unlike Laraque or some of the other journeyman goons, Looch can skate and score. No--he's not Cam Neely, at least not yet, but he is an impact player with considerable skill.