Here's how I see the Scott Hartnell hit on Jonathan Cheechoo in Game One on Wednesday night. It was on purpose and it shouldn't be a big shock to Sharks fans.
Let's rewind the video tape by about one year. Game Two between the Sharks and Edmonton in the Western Conference Semifinals. (Keep in mind the Sharks have just rolled over Nashville in 5 games.)
The Sharks lead the Oilers 1-0 in the series and Raffi Torres blindsides Milan Michalek. The Sharks went on to win the game, but they never won again. Later in the series George Laraque ran Cheechoo into the boards, cutting him open and later Chris Pronger took numerous liberties with Joe Thornton
. The Oilers sent a message. The Sharks could be physically intimidated. It worked for Edmonton. They won the series in six games and went on to the Stanley Cup finals.
Do you honestly think that those actions by the Oilers were lost on the Nashville Predators? Come on. These are the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most exciting, and at times, most vicious two months in professional sports. This isn't about money. The players got their last paychecks when the regular season ended. This is the chance to get your name on the Stanley Cup.
You won't live forever, but long after you are gone you and your families name will still remain on the most glorious trophy in all of sports. That means a lot for just about every hockey player I've ever met. It doesn't matter that they all belong to the same players union. Once the playoffs start it's all about winning games, winning series and winning the Cup. End of story.
You can call Hartnell's hit on Cheechoo a cheap shot if you want. I haven't known Hartnell to be a cheap shot artist in his career but some players say otherwise. Call it one salvo in the battle to win a series. For Nashville coach Barry Trotz to say Hartnell didn't even deserve a penalty on the play is preposterous.
I doubt if Hartnell intentionally set out to hurt Cheechoo but you can be sure that he wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to get a lick in on him if he could. The opportunity presented itself and Hartnell did what he did. The Sharks did end up winning the game. Now the question becomes, how do the Sharks respond from this point forward? In case you haven't noticed yet, this is going to be a great series.
For Seagate Technology’s “In the Crease,” I’m Randy Hahn.