As the NHL season progresses, certain truths become evident.
One is Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic does a lot of things very, very well, but stickhandling the truth isn’t one of them.
Lucic has a wonderful personal rivalry with Montreal Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin which adds another layer of animosity, it seems, with each meeting.
Monday night was no different.
I love the way both of them play the game. Both are unflinching competitors. Emelin, one of the best open-ice hitters in the game, blew his knee out last spring trying to take a run at Lucic at the Bell Centre. That’s a move few right-side defencemen would even contemplate, never mind attempt.
There were more furious collisions between the two a couple of weeks ago in Montreal with Lucic getting the better of Emelin with a couple of smashes into the boards.
Undaunted, Emelin executed what looked like a near-perfect hip check in the opening couple of minutes of Monday night’s game, upending the 6-foot-3, 235-pound forward and sending him catapulting into the boards.
Problem is, clean check or not in today’s NHL, if you take somebody out with a big hit you have to answer for it and Boston’s Zdeno Chara knocked Emelin down. That’s some messed up thinking. In addition, the guy throwing the hip check is now automatically accused of going after somebody’s knees. That’s what Lucic claimed after the game.
“Well, I mean, whether it’s fair, legal or whatever you want to call it, if he wasn’t scared, he would stand up and hit me and not go after my knees,” he said. “It just shows how big of a chicken he is that he needs to go down like that to take me down.
“It shows what kind of player he is and on my end, you know you’ve got to keep your guard up at all times.”
Emelin has accomplished something if he’s got Lucic thinking that way. That’s like a tank having to watch out in a grocery store parking lot, considering the way most guys tiptoe around when Lucic is on the ice.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby didn’t like the legal hip check Ottawa Senators defenceman Marc Methot gave him in December, thinking it was aimed at his knees (the collateral damage was Crosby landed on linemate Pascal Dupuis, putting Dupuis out for the season with a knee injury.)
That was a legal check, too, but the thinking in the NHL now – among the victims, anyway – is that a hip check is automatically “going for my knees.”
No, it isn’t.
What Bryan Marchment (look him up, kids) used to do was going for a guy’s knees.
So, Lucic is wrong calling Emelin a chicken because he’s anything but.
For those wondering about Emelin not dropping the gloves, he’s got a steel plate where his orbital bone used to be after he got his face caved in during a fight with Alexander Svitov in the KHL. The fact he won’t fight drives opponents even crazier. You could argue he shouldn’t run around the ice delivering big checks if he’s unable to answer for it, but there’s more than a few guys in the league who do worse things than clean, open-ice hits who won’t fight.
Lucic got back at Emelin in the third period the old fashioned way, waiting for the play to go up the ice and then spearing Emelin in the junk from behind.
It was a move that went unnoticed by the referees but not the cameraman in the corner, who captured the moment and made any male viewers instinctively want to go into the fetal position.
Lucic adopted the Ference Defence, which is ‘what you saw didn’t happen.’
Remember when former Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference scored a goal in the 2011 playoffs against Montreal and flashed the bird to the Bell Centre crowd? He blamed a glove malfunction.
“I can assure you that’s not part of who I am or what I have ever been,” he said that night.
Give Ference credit: a year later in a blog post about accountability, he admitted he did it.
‘Spear? What spear?’ was pretty much Lucic’s defence.
“I was just skating by him and that’s all. People are trying to say I speared him,” said Lucic. “I did not spear him, so that’s it.”
Well, that’s hardly it.
There’s lots more to come in this story, which hopefully writes a new chapter in the playoffs.