Nick will discuss this issue and more on “The Late Nick Mendola” program from 7-10 p.m. EST Wednesday on WECK 1230 AM (stream live HERE). Join him and react to the Sabres game live by calling 716.783.9325. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook here.
(WECK 1230) — The picture is the problem.
Jason Pominville was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher after a blindside hit from Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson — WATCH THE HIT HERE — who was later suspended two games for his boarding between the two and nine on Pominville’s back. The images will stick with viewers and players for a much longer time than a player wobbling off the ice somewhat on his own power.
Believe that Hjalmarsson wasn’t trying to turn Jason Pominville into pomegranite juice. For one thing, Hjalmarsson is far from a dirty player. In fact, he’s pretty much been squeaky clean. In 77 games last season, he took just 20 penalty minutes (all minor penalties). At one point, he went 22 games without being whistled for an infraction. Throw in the playoffs and he played 99 games, committing just 13 minors.
It puts an end to a 335-game ironman streak for Pominville, which is a true shame. The Sabres are fired up, but it obviously has more to do with the outcome of the hit rather than the offense itself. Throw in the fact that Pominville is about as big a class act in hockey as you’ll find, and it’s bound to ruffle extra feathers in the Sabres room.
Fact of the matter is two games would probably feel about right to the team if the situation was reversed and Pominville barrel-rolled Hjalmarsson in Chicago.
It might feel grimy, but it’s no coincidence that Colin Campbell suspended Hjalmarsson just long enough to see the business end of the Sabres/Hawks series on Saturday. “The Sheriff” had almost 1,600 PIM in the NHL and appreciates old school justice. If you want to say that’s sad, fine, but it’s sad but true.
Just like Brian Campbell eventually had to fight R.J. Umberger, Hjalmarsson will have to match up for his transgression at the United Center on Saturday evening. The Sheriff has opened that game up to mob justice, and the Sabres are going to get all Corleone if he doesn’t issue a stiff warning. If he does warn the team, it would ring quite hollow in Buffalo and God forbid Saturday’s the day someone gets really hurt. Campbell and the league will reap what they’ve sown in short-sightedness.
Either way, set your DVRs.