It’s fair to say Brendan Shanahan has the most difficult job in hockey. If you need any more confirmation for that, take a look at this hit tonight on Johnny Boychuk of the Boston Bruins by Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.
Almost 33 months to the day since Pacioretty was drilled into the stanchion at the Bell Centre by Zdeno Chara with a thunderous check that had devastating results, Pacioretty was on the giving end of a controversial hit in the first period of tonight’s game. And like Chara back in March, 2011, Pacioretty will undoubtedly claim innocence if Shanahan decides to call him on the carpet for the hit.
It was scary to be sure. Not the hit, but the aftermath. Boychuk was originally slow to get up to his hands and knees, then looked to be struggling to catch his breath. He was originally put on a stretcher and taken off the ice, causing a 10-minute delay in the game.
The hit stared out as an innocent-looking attempt to separate Boychuk from a puck that was approaching him along the boards. But as Pacioretty made contact, Boychuk turned to get the puck and the hit went from shoulder-to-shoulder to shoulder-to-back.
If you’re arguing for a suspension, you could point out that while there was almost certainly no malice on Pacioretty’s part, it was a reckless play. Much of what made it reckless was that Pacioretty failed to let up and hit Boychuk while he was in a vulnerable position and a dangerous position from the boards.
Pacioretty received a minor penalty for boarding on the play, but you can be certain Shanahan will look at it hundreds of times tonight to determine whether it merits a hearing and supplemental suspension.
And it should. It was a reckless hit on a vulnerable opponent. The same way players have to be responsible for their sticks, they also have to be responsible for their bodies. These hits will keep happening unless they’re penalized with real consequences regardless of intent.