With the NHL rules being strictly enforced during the playoffs, there have been fewer noticeable big hits. Not that the new rules discourage it, but because players can cheat.
“Maybe it is a little hard now because you can’t pull a guy into you,” said Scott Thornton.
There are still a lot of physical plays and one was delivered by Thornton Tuesday night on Brendan Witt.
“Everyone has been finishing their checks,” said Thornton. “Witt was in an awkward position and tired, so I was able to get a good pop on him.”
On the flip side, the faster skating league has made some of the hits that do happen a little more noticeable, like the one delivered to the Flyers R.J. Umberger by Buffalo’s Brian Campbell. He was knocked cold after receiving a pass.
“You still have to keep your head up,” said Thornton. “A lot of the bigger hits are because a guy has his head down.”
While the highlight hits may be down a bit, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is any less physical out there.
“Not all the big dramatic hits hurt,” said Thornton. “‘Cheech’ was flipped in the air the other night, but that didn’t hurt him. Sometimes it’s the good finishing check along the boards that takes the wind out of you.”
Kyle McLaren is one of the more feared open ice hitters in the League and actually had a non-hit do its job in Nashville. On the player, McLaren quickly closed in on the forward, but the Predator player quickly pulled up to avoid the contact and in the process, let the puck move safely into the Sharks zone.
“That is a win-win,” said McLaren of creating the non-contact.
PENALTIES There have been calls from the opposite locker room about calls being made in the favor of one team, but most of that discrepancy has been caused by the Sharks size advantage, not the referees who are calling what they see.
“People are yelling to let the boys play,” said Coach Ron Wilson. “That is saying let the boys cheat. A penalty is a penalty.”
Wilson feels that those who straddle the line are running their own risk.
“They are playing poker,” said Wilson. “If you put your stick up, it can get called. If your stick is on the ice, there is no way they can call a penalty.”
Wilson feels that too much yelling happens in the direction of the striped shirts.
“I tell our guys not to yell and scream from the bench,” said Wilson. “Can you imagine if every time a player bobbled the puck, the ref said ‘nice hands’? Their job is hard enough as it is.”
TONIGHT'S GAME The Sharks will take on the Nashville Predators tonight at 7:30 at HP Pavilion. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area and heard on the Sharks Radio Network or sjsharks.com.