Boychuk's check on Stajan expected to be reviewed

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:42 AM ET

The moment Johnny Boychuk’s neutral zone hit splattered Matt Stajan onto the Air Canada ice with a sickening thud last night, the debate began.

Was it a clean hit?

Was it a head shot?

Did Boychuk leave his feet?

Could the incident have been avoided?

Upon further review, there is no clear cut answer.

In the Boston Bruins dressing room, no one saw anything wrong with the Check Heard ‘Round The ACC. Just down the hall in the swank quarters occupied by the Maple Leafs, the feeling was that Boychuk had crossed the line.

Such is the cloudy nature of this purcolating head shot issue that seems to be on the forefront of the minds of hockey’s power brokers these days.

There is no black and white here. It is a grey area, one that does not seem to have a definitive conclusion.

The safety of the players is paramount. There can be no arguing that. At the same time, take out open ice hits and “NHL” may as well stand for the “Non-Contact Hockey League.”

There is no doubt that Stajan’s head was down when he released the puck just on the Bruins side of centre with 6:44 remaining in the Maple Leafs 2-0 victory. It is also fact that Boychuk’s hit was not late, with contact coming within a second of the Leaf forward passing the puck.

After that, well, the jury is out.

Stajan thought Boychuk went airborne to target his noggin. So did Ron Wilson, although the Leaf coach did not rant and rave about it in his post-game press conference.

On the other hand, Boychuk, as expected, pleaded innocent.

“I thought it was a clean hit,” Boychuk said. “I saw the pass coming five seconds (ahead of time). I think everyone in the building did.

“I tried to keep my elbow in. I tried to keep everything in. I’ve been hit like that before and I don’t like it, so I tried to keep it a clean hit.”

For Bruins coach Claude Julien, there is a danger in attempting to embark on a Salem Witch Hunt whenever a Johnny Boychuk delivers a blow such as the one last night.

“I know we’ve been trying to cut down on head shots but this was head on,” Julien said. “(Boychuk) did not take a run at him. From what I saw, Stajan had his head down.

“We are going to have to be careful about making accusations to guys who make open ice hits. We are going to have to be careful how we look at those. If every open ice hit is going to (ignite controversy), we might as well play no contact hockey.”

The one positive that came out of the incident: Stajan was able to come out and address the media after the game, meaning his marbles had not been scrambled too seriously. Wilson said the young forward, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, deserved a purple heart for his efforts.

You can bet NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell will be studying the incident, not for the purposes of suspending Boychuk but to attempt to use it as yet another case study in the search for a solution. Campbell and deputy commissioner Bill Daly addressed the issue of head shots at the Board of Governors meetings just last week at Pebble Beach.

As for the two teams involved, Boychuk’s hit is certain to fan a rivalry that has developed sharp teeth of late. The Bruins and Leafs still meet three more times this season, two of those coming at the Air Canada Centre.

At least no one was seriously hurt this time around, which is a good thing.

That might be the only point of agreement these two teams have all season.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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