Heading into the 2013 NHL Playoffs the entire league knew that the shortened season wouldn’t affect the brutality of the sport. Anyone who doubted the tenacity of this sport surely hasn’t seen the blood of Lars Eller that wound up on the ice during Game 1 of the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators first-round series.
Eller was lit up by Senators defenseman Eric Gryba in what appeared to be a clean hit. However, Gryba was bounced from the game immediately after the smash. When Eller went down it was a 1-1 tie, but the Senators would later pull off the upset with a 4-2 victory. As a seven seed, the Senators needed to have their presence felt, but a near decapitation is not the way to start a series no matter what the sport.
Hockey pundits have debated for years whether or not the sport should ban fighting, so Eller’s injury is just fodder to the timeless argument.
The ball of retaliation is now in the Canadiens’ court, so don’t be surprised if Montreal comes out swinging when the puck is dropped on Friday night. A blood bath is not what the NHL and its fans want, but it could ensue if in fact the Canadiens take exception to the loss of Eller for the series.
In a lockout-shortened season, the tension has been heightened and the blood has boiled profusely, so an all out brawl between these two clubs is not too farfetched. Either way, the NHL has an issue on its hands and the referees of this particular series must have their heads on a swivel.