A Bloody Start
Didn't take the Anaheim Ducks long to send the message that they intend to be just as rough and nasty against the Detroit Red Wings this spring as they were in 2007, which is why this should be a terrific, if potentially ugly, series.
Mike Brown's vicious blindside hit on Jiri Hudler left Hudler in a pool of blood and should, if there's any consistency in Colin Campbell's world, land Brown a five-game suspension just as it did Washington's Donald Brashear for his hit on Blair Betts of the Rangers last week.
Back in 2007, you may remember, Chris Pronger's hit-from-behind on Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom saw Holmstrom cut for 13 stitches and Pronger suspended for a game. Anaheim won that series by wearing out an already banged up Detroit team, and with Kris Draper and Brian Rafalski already missing from the Red Wing lineup, you can see that will be the Anaheim approach again.
Sadly, the chorus on Hockey Night in Canada - on this night P.J. Stock, Ron MacLean and Kelly Hrudey - all agreed that the Brown hit was clean, declining to address the obvious reality that it was late and a hit to the head. Hrudey's usually the sensible guy over at HNIC, but that's the CBC hockey approach, get everybody agreeing with MacLean - the only guy in the world who believes taking hooking out of the game was a bad thing - and Don Cherry and do everything possible to remove dissenting opinion from the program.
When they went back to the game - surprise, surprise - analyst Garry Galley said he agreed with the boys back in the studio. Galley didn't even think it was a penalty. All on the same page, like always.
Over at TSN, at least there was common sense and a difference of opinion. Darren Pang thought it was a head shot and probably suspendable. Tom Renney went further, suggesting there was premeditation for an earlier elbowing penalty taken by Hudler on Francois Beauchemin. Bob McKenze said he doubted there would be a suspension, and said the league still hasn't made it clear whether a blindside shoulder hit to the head is legal or illegal.
Now, putting my conflict of interest on the table, I work sometimes for TSN. Preferences for style and personality aside, wouldn't you rather at least hear a discussion of different points of view?
Again, Hrudey has made himself the top HNIC analyst by being willing to think a little differently, so hopefully he'll get back to that soon. And Stock? Well, he's the worst in the business, with his delivery wretched and opinions generally idiotic.
All this said, its the contrast between the styles of these two teams that makes this series interesting. Anaheim plays that physical, intimidating style, and the Wings won't back down and will continue to move the puck, make plays and score goals. I'm no fight guy, but watching Jonathan Ericsson (a Swede) ragdoll chronic backstabber Corey Perry was darn fun to watch.
It's a battle of will already dipped in blood.