Anyway you look at it, the hit was clean.
The two points that were up for grabs Sunday night when the Chicago Blackhawks took on the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t matter much statistically, but if Jonathan Toews – the Blackhawks’ captain – was severely hurt after taking a vicious body check from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, then it may have cost Chicago a chance at a Stanley Cup.
Thankfully, it’s been reported that Toews’ shoulder injury wasn’t too serious and he’s listed as day-to-day, but perhaps the most newsworthy thing to come out of the play was the absurd comments made by NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury.
“He hits to hurt people,” Milbury said. “He looks for players in a vulnerable position,” was another one of my favorites.
Now it’s no secret that I am a Pens fan, but saying that about a player like Brooks Orpik is just ridiculous. Sure, he’s a tough guy to play against and uses his body to his advantage, but the last thing he should be classified as is a dirty player.
That’s like calling Niklas Kronwall a dirty player just because he is known for his huge hits.
When someone donning the Penguins crest does something questionable, I’ll be the first to recognize it. Matt Cooke did eventually clean up his act, but there was a two-year span with the Penguins when he probably didn’t deserve to be on the ice.
Hell, six days ago I wrote an article about how James Neal’s antics are getting old.
Milbury’s solution on how the Blackhawks should have solved the issue was even more comical. Had Orpik kneed/elbowed/speared/sucker punched/jumped Toews, then I can understand the need for someone to step right up and force Orpik to fight.
Like I said, the two points didn’t really matter and an instigator penalty would have been worth it in that scenario.
But he didn’t. The hit was as clean as they come and Toews was simply caught on the tracks with his head down right before the train was coming through.
If it was 1985, then yes, Orpik would have had to immediately pay for his hit on the opposing captain, but it’s not, it’s a different game and guys like Mike Milbury need to learn to understand that. Orpik has 14 career fighting majors in the NHL, but jumping a player for a clean hit will never be justified.
Many of the guys in the current NHL didn’t grow up with the goon mentality. I’m sure many of them saw it at one point or another in their career, but it wasn’t the norm when they began to reach the elite levels of the game.
There is still a place in the game for fighting and I will always defend that, but the role of an enforcer has changed while the game has evolved. People like Mike Milbury either fail to accept that or fail to understand it.
Orpik knew that he had a target on his back for the rest of the game; Andrew Shaw attempted to take a run at him in the corner, but ended up doing more damage to teammate Patrick Sharp.
People that think Orpik should have immediately been jumped are, in my mind, the same people that don’t see an issue with what happened to Steve Moore. The fact that Todd Bertuzzi is still allowed to play in the NHL has always made me a bit nauseous. The psychology that goes on in a players mind has changed after a huge, legal hit – it’s one of the many changes that has taken place in the game over the last decade.
Mike Milbury is the Skip Bayless of the NHL and I understand why he’s on television. He creates controversy like this one, which in turn will lead to higher ratings for NBC Sports.
It’s just really difficult to take the guy who once climbed into the stands of Madison Square Garden and beat a man with his own shoe seriously.