Earlier in the month there was plenty of controversy following a hit that was delivered by the Chicago Blackhawks' Connor Murphy, one that crushed the Tampa Bay Lightning's Erik Cernak behind the Chicago Blackhawks net.
For those who didn't see it, Murphy was ejected for the hit but many including myself felt that the hit was perfectly legal. It is true that Cernak may have taken some incidental contact to the head, but I believe you would be hard pressed to make an argument that it was a dirty play. In case you haven't had a chance to see it for yourselves, here is a slow motion replay.
The controversy didn't end there however and in fact it reared its ugly head again this week when the two teams faced off once again. Members of the Lightning were aggressively trying to bait Murphy into dropping the gloves to answer for his hit, but as it turns out Murphy was specifically asked not to fight by the Blackhawks coaching staff. Head coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed this on Saturday when he expressed his displeasure with several members of the Lightning roster.
"For me, the hit he had in Chicago, he got a penalty for it," said Colliton. "I think that was enough, considering he went through the guy’s chest. He hit him hard but I don’t believe it was a dirty hit. I don’t agree with the thought you should have to answer for playing hard and finishing your check. That kind of thing is always going to be part of the game, I hope. I’m well-acquainted with headshots and obviously against them in any way. But at best it was a glancing, incidental contact there. Obviously the player missed the rest of the game, but it wasn’t a head issue; otherwise he wouldn’t have played 20 minutes the next game against Detroit."
"Murph has no problem answering the bell. He probably would love to. But we’ve asked him not to, because he’s too important to our team. We need him on the ice. We’ve asked him to suck it up and make a team decision and just play, and he’s done that. He’s a hard player, he’s a physical player, and that’s part of what he brings and I don’t think he should have to be warding off challengers for the whole game because he’s finishing his checks."
Frustrated with Lightning’s behaviour about this? "It just doesn’t make any sense to me. They’ve got some guys who play a hard game, a physical game. If Hedman finishes a hard check on Murph, I don’t think they’re going to love if we’ve got guys chasing him around the ice or expecting that he should take a five-minute [major] or risk breaking his hand on someone’s head."
Interestingly enough Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper appeared to agree at least in part with the way it was handled by Murphy and the Blackhawks, although the caveat he added to his answer was a little weak in my estimation
"I think Murphy is an honest player. I really do. … And in retrospect … it wasn't a dirty hit. So I see what Murphy is thinking (about not wanting to sit out for fighting) – and he's probably right in thinking that," said Cooper.
"But in a game where there's physicality in it sometimes … there's gonna be ramifications for what you do whether it's justified or not."
Sending your guys out after a guy you believe delivered a clean hit is a questionable tactic in my opinion, and based on the comments made by Colliton I suspect that the Blackhawks feel the exact same way.