April 15, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEO
In the immortal words of Dan Boyle, If this was five years ago, we wouldnt even be talking about this.He could even have said that five months ago. But in a relatively rare burst of postseason discipline, the National Hockey League suspended Los Angeles center Jarret Stoll for Saturdays second game of the Kings-Sharks series.The crime? Hitting Ian White from behind and planting his head against the glass, causing concussion-like symptoms that likely will keep him out of Game 2 as well.
NEWS: Kings' Stoll suspended for hit on Sharks' White
The time? Probably about a fourth of what Stoll would have gotten had this been Game 73, but since it is Game 83, many people expected the league to err on the side of but its the playoffs.Well, it is, and yet it isnt. The league made such a hoop-de-blah about head shots this winter and spring that the Stoll case became a litmus test for its sincerity on the issue. And the answer is, Yes they are, kinda sorta.The Kings, non unexpectedly, thought the penalty was too severe, and compared an unpenalized hit Jason Demers leveled on Ryan Smyth as their case.If Jarret Stoll gets one game, what Jason Demers did to Ryan Smyth was five times more severe, head coach Terry Murray said. His hit meets all the criteria for a severe suspension. If you travel distance, launch yourself two or three feet off the ice and deliver a blow to the head, that is five times worse. I was in Philadelphia when we played in Ottawa and Steve Downie did the same thing, and he got 25 games. That has to be viewed.For me personally, I was disappointed, assistant general manager Ron Hextall said. To me, he turned his skates at the line, he was trying to pin his man and Ian White hit his head on the dasher. As for Stoll himself:I was disappointed with the decision, Stoll said. I understand it and I respect it. I just told them what I did as honestly as I could.
REWIND: Sharks edge Kings on Pavelski's O.T. winnerLosing Stoll is a big deal because he was one of the Kings best players not only during the regular season but Thursday night as well, but losing White impacts the Sharks almost as much, as their defensive depth has been the major question about their ability to drive toward their first Stanley Cup final.Whites likely replacement is rookie Justin Braun, who played 28 games during the regular season, and Stolls is Oscar Moller, who played 13. The Kings tried to bring up center John Zeiler from their Manchester farm, but Zeiler couldnt clear re-entry waivers and arrive in San Jose in time.But as both teams get necessarily younger, they also got less experienced, making Saturdays game more of a wild card than it already was.The two teams played a remarkably even game Thursday, with each team having flurries of sure goals taken away by brilliant goaltending (Jonathan Quick had 42 saves, 10 of which were improbably good, and Antti Niemi 33, six of which were exceptional), and long droughts when they couldnt even muster a shot (the Kings when 13 minutes without one in the first and second periods, the Sharks 15 without one in the second and third).But with two such jagged holes in their lineups, the two teams will have to make more substantive adjustments for Game 2 than would have under normal circumstances. Braun will be paired with Niclas Wallin, as he was during the regular season, while Moller worked with the fourth line between Kevin Westgarth and Alexei Ponikarovsky.Either way, the series has promptly ramped itself into a full-on rivalry with one hit, one overtime game and a foundation of bad intent that will only grow as the series advances. At least thats the way it used to be when the league didnt mind head shots. Whether this impacts the two teams intentions viz. each other remains to be seen.What's your take?EmailRay and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag. Follow Ray onTwitter @RattoCSN.