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In somewhat of a surprise move by the NHL today, the league has decided not to suspend or fine Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for the nasty hit on Montreal’s Max Pacioretty in last night’s 4-1 Canadiens win up at the Bell Centre.
For the few of you who haven’t seen or heard about last night’s incident by now, the play came in the final seconds of the game’s second period. Chara followed Pacioretty along the boards, right in front of the teams’ benches. With the hit by Chara, the Montreal rookie was sent head-first into the corner of the glass between the two benches, sending him flopping to the ice, instantly knocking him unconscious. Chara was given a five-minute major penalty for interference on the play, along with a game misconduct, ejecting him from the rest of the contest.
According to Canadiens’ coach Jacques Martin, Max Pacioretty has sustained a “severe concussion, as well as a fracture of the fourth cervical vertebrae, but it’s not displaced.” He remains hospitalized and speculation around the media members that cover the Habs lean towards Pacioretty’s season likely being over.
As for Chara, he participated in a noon conference call today with the NHL’s Vice President of Hockey Operations, Mike Murphy, to learn his fate. Colin Campbell, the league’s usual disciplinarian, does not involve himself in any of the dealings with the Bruins, because his son Gregory plays for the team. Late this afternoon, after hearing Chara’s side of the story, Murphy released this statement:
“I conducted a hearing with Boston Bruins’ defenseman Zdeno Chara with respect to the major penalty for interference and game misconduct that he was assessed at 19:44 of the second period for a hit on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.
After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline. This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards. I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.
This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”
With both the Bruins and Canadiens fighting for playoff positioning atop the Northeast Divsion, all of this could become a major factor as to where these teams end up in the Eastern Conference standings. Now not having to miss any games, the B’s will have the services of their captain as they push for one of the conference’s top spots. On the other hand, the Habs will be without the services of arguably their hottest player. In their last 20 games, Pacioretty led the team in goals (11) and overall points (17). He had four goals in five meetings this season against the B’s.
Chara and the Bruins return home Thursday night, looking to rebound from their lackluster performance north of the border, as they get set to host another division rival, the Buffalo Sabres.