Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The Tampa Bay Lightning
are the second most penalized team in the NHL
. They managed to add to their total only 40 seconds into their Sunday evening tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins
at The St. Pete Times Forum and nearly threw the balance of the Eastern Conference into chaos at the same time.
Steve Downie's slew foot turned reverse figure four leg lock on Sidney Crosby
would have blown out the knee of a mere moral. But the hockey gods and the guy who drives the Zamboni were on Crosby's side in the seconds after the first impact and the Penguins star was able to limp away from the encounter with only a slight knee strain.
Had the same incident occurred later in the period there is no doubt that Doctor Chip Burke would be busy today piecing Crosby's right knee back together.
Officials huddled for a moment before deciding that two minutes of shame in the penalty box and a note in the officials post game report would suffice under the circumstances. Their explanation did not sit well with the Penguin bench during the game or the front office afterward but the game progressed without a brawl of any sort mainly because of the playoff implications involved for both teams.
For the uninitiated or those who have never played the game a slew foot is as low as you can go in the game of hockey. The recipient of such a kick, no matter the skill level, becomes an instant projectile careening wildly and violently into the nearest large object.
It is a despicable act carried out by players with no respect for an opponent or what damage he can intentionally wreak on an opponent. In the days of Gordie Howe hockey it meant the kind of beating from the opposing team's goon that even the officials wouldn't step in to break up.
You would think that the captain of one of the teams involved in Sunday's incident who stood on his soap box late last week and verbally shredded Matt Cooke for a similar moment of recklessness might have something to add. But Vincent LeCavalier turned verbal turtle in front of the media afterward and refused comment on his teammate's conduct. Not that Vinny taking the easy way out really surprised anyone.
Once is an accident, twice is a trend goes the saying. So the thought of premeditation creeps into the conversation here with Vinny's words echoing about the Penguins Matt Cooke and the sound that Sergei Gonchar's shoulder made when the Lightning
's David Koci ran him from behind and dislocated it in a preseason game at Mellon Arena last September. Gonchar missed more than half a season because of the hit.
That LeCavalier and his sidekick in the Cooke bashing Martin St. Louis both ducked the question about their teammate's actions says volumes about both players and none of it good.
It is apparent that some of head coach Rick Tocchet's inner Flyer has taken hold and at moments like this that is a very bad thing. Tocchet praised Downie for "rebuilding himself" in the Tampa organization after a pair of suspensions including one for slashing a lineseman had left his career in ruins.
So because Tocchet heaps on the praise its OK to go run someone? Or because your captain is angry at someone on the other team, does that make it okay to run that team's star?
That Colin Campbell has made a complete, total and absolute mess of disclipine in the NHL doesn't help in these matters. Downie will be fined at worst at which point I am sure we'll hear Vinny again.
But its just as likely that Campbell will turn the blind eye to this garbage and we'll all be sitting here in a week or a month talking about the latest nightmare. If the Lightning aren't involved I am sure their captain will be doing the talking again.