Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Pittsburgh reporter on Sidney Crosby hit: ‘That’s just cheap, it’s dirty, it’s filthy’

May 2, 2017
Matt Niskanen cross-checks Sidney Crosby during the first period on Monday. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s injury in the first period of Monday’s second-round playoff game against the Capitals prompted all sorts of reactions inside and outside PPG Paints Arena during and after Washington’s 3-2 overtime win. None of the takes has been hotter than the one belonging to Pittsburgh reporter Rob Rossi, who wrote that the purpose of the Capitals’ closed-door meeting after Game 2 was to devise a plan for “eliminating Crosby.”
But Rossi, who had a contentious exchange with Capitals Coach Barry Trotz after the game, wasn’t the only Pittsburgh reporter who suggested that Matt Niskanen’s cross-check was malicious. “That’s how you want to win, Washington? Really?” was the headline Tuesday morning on former Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic’s subscription-based site, Meanwhile, Kevin Gorman, a current Tribune-Review columnist, wrote that the Capitals “resorted to one of hockey’s cheapest tricks: take out the opponent’s best player.”
Kovacevic was given a chance to defend his opinion as a guest on the Pittsburgh-based “Randy Baumann and the DVE Morning Show”, during which Baumann argued that injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of the physical nature of hockey’s postseason.
“I don’t understand the outrage with the physical play, and winning by any means, almost, is acceptable in the NHL playoffs,” he said. “That’s something that we’ve always accepted, right?”
“I think we’ve accepted it,” Kovacevic said. “I also think that the NHL has purported, including just before these existing playoffs, that it wants to get rid of stuff like this. By that I mean, in particular, the idea that when a team is either behind or ahead, whether it’s in a game or a series, that they try to take advantage of situations and just, you know, hurt people. When you see something like this happen last night, and as fast as it was and as much as Matt Niskanen and everyone on the Capitals side were insisting it happened too fast for him to react, well guess what, it happened slow enough for him to raise both of his arms and his stick into the face that he saw coming his way. So, yeah, there’s a whole lot of cynicism about what Washington is saying, justifiably so, and man, there’s no place for it.”
“I’m a little bit leery of the idea of complaining about physical play in the postseason as a Penguins fan,” Baumann replied. “I think there may be some merit to that. We’re constructed differently than that team. They’re the more physical team.”
“You keep describing this play as physical,” Kovacevic said. “This was nothing other than a cheap shot. Physical is lowering your shoulder into somebody. Physical is a big hit. This was a guy raising lumber into somebody’s face. That’s not physical, not in any definition of hockey, going back 100 years. That’s just cheap, it’s dirty, it’s filthy, it’s the worst hit you can have in hockey, if you even want to call it a hit. This is nothing noble or characteristic at all in what Matt Niskanen did, and I can promise you that he knows it and the Washington Capitals know it. Did guys happen to notice that when it actually happened, absolutely no one on the Washington side, so much as raised a pinkie finger or their voice whenever Niskanen was sent off? Officials changed their minds from the minor penalty to the major and it was like, ‘Yep, yep, yeah, definitely a major. Yeah, sure, uh-huh.’”
(Had the Capitals’ bench vehemently protested Niskanen’s game misconduct, there likely would’ve been no shortage of pundits criticizing them for not showing the proper respect following an injury to one of the game’s best players.)
Kovacevic was also asked about Chris Kunitz’s hit on T.J. Oshie, which did not result in a penalty. Trotz described Kunitz’s hit as predatory in his postgame news conference when Rossi grilled him about Alex Ovechkin’s slash of Crosby that wasn’t penalized and preceded Niskanen’s cross-check.
“I disagree with Barry Trotz’s exact characterization [of Kunitz’s hit] as ‘predatory,‘” Kovacevic said, making fun of Trotz’s butchering of the word. “You would think that a guy who had coached the Nashville Predators for a decade and a half would’ve pulled off every possible derivation of the word, right? Uh, no, that play actually happened right below us in the press box. I don’t think either player saw the other guy coming until the very last second and it just so happened that Oshie had less balance in the situation. I don’t even think it was a hit. I think it was just two guys running into each other. If that makes me sound like a homer, so be it. I thought the Penguins got away with a handful of infractions, a couple in particular that the officials could have called. I thought there was one call that went Pittsburgh’s way in particular that was just a terrible, terrible dive on the Penguins part. It was [Bryan] Rust. It was Rust with the dive and they called it. I thought they were just absolutely terrible the entire night, both in their application of rules and their inconsistency.”
Kovacevic laughed when asked what he thought the league’s reaction to Niskanen’s hit would be. (The interview was before the NHL announced that Niskanen will not face any supplemental discipline.)
“We’re talking about the National Hockey League,” Kovacevic said. “You never have to wonder about these things. All you do is you listen to the national broadcasts, because the messages already get sent out, the cue cards. When you hear these guys instantly saying, ‘Oh, it was just a self-defense move by Matt Niskanen,’ they’re already starting to send those waves out. That’s how they work unfortunately. Basically, you just listen to [Mike Milbury] and you have the idea of what’s happening at the NHL’s department of player safety. … Nothing matters to those dinosaurs quite like protecting the dinosaur aspect of the game.”
During the first intermission on Monday, Milbury and fellow NBC Sports Network analyst Keith Jones agreed that Niskanen deserved a major penalty and a game misconduct for the cross-check, but neither thought Niskanen intended to hurt Crosby or that he should be suspended.
“There was nothing at all about that play that Matt Niskanen needed to do, and he knows it,” Kovacevic said.

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