Shawn Thornton was the personification of the honorable tough guy in this league until last night. His violent attack on Penguins' d-man Brooks Orpik was shocking but not unsurprising, as it capped off years of bad blood between these teams, dating back to Matt Cooke's cowardly blindside shot on Marc Savard in 2010.
To start things off, Orpik laid out a recently-concussed Loui Eriksson on a play that certainly didn't require a massive body check....Eriksson was relatively defenseless, and Orpik took advantage of that, destroying Eriksson with a high hit as he attempted to exit the Bruins' defensive zone. While it may be considered a clean hit in some circles in my opinion it was another example of needless maximum violence being applied in the course of a hockey game. Orpik has made a career out of punishing smaller forwards, while hiding from the likes of guys like Thornton and Parros, and he should've dropped the gloves and taken his medicine when Thornton came calling for a donnybrook after the Eriksson hit. Orpik chose to do the wrong thing and not fight, further inflaming the Bruins' tempers. If a guy like Brian Boyle has the courage to get thrashed by Chara, perhaps the Pens' best defenseman should've acted less like Ulf Samuelsson and more like a guy who knows the inevitable risk of playing a physical style of hockey....and then before the game could calm down, James Neal decided to do his thing.
Neal slammed his leg into the head of a defenseless and prone Brad Marchand, in one of the most disgraceful on-ice acts I've ever seen in 35+ years of playing and watching hockey. Disregard the fact that Neal outweighs Marchand by 25 lbs and is five inches taller than Rat Marchand for a moment--Neal could've easily broken Marchand's neck with this play. While everyone screams "Bertuzzi" at Thornton--and rightly so--where is the outrage over Neal's hit? Neal is a damned coward and punk, and one day the wheel of karma will spin his way...the same way it spun for Brooks Orpik, neck-breaker of Erik Cole, and punisher of those who aren't big or mean enough to hit back.
in any event, last night was a display of the worst that hockey has to offer. I hope Thornton goes for 10, Neal for 10, and in my version of a perfect NHL Orpik would sit for a game for his own reckless behavior. But since this is a league that recently allowed Ray Emery to beat on an unwilling fight partner and then walk away unpunished, I'd imagine Thornton is going to get something in the 20-25 game range to make up for the non-punishment of Emery, while Neal may get 3 games. Orpik, whose cowardly behavior caused this entire chain of events to unfurl, will doubtlessly get nothing but sympathy from his fawning and uncritical fanbase. The Pens and the Bruins are two of the dirtiest franchises in the league, and the league needs to throw the book at everyone involved here. Time for this crap to stop.