The Kassian Hit Exposes Deeper Issues

It was ugly. In fact, it was shameful. The game was, yes, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. That’s not what media and fans are focussing on, and rightfully so. We’re used to seeing lifeless and effortless Montreal Canadiens by now. However, last night against the Edmonton Oilers, we were all given reasons to add another qualificative to describe them: gutless!

At the 15 minute mark of the second period, Canadiens’ goaltender Samuel Montembeault, with his team already down 5-1, was bulldozed by Oilers’ tough guy Zack Kassian. The impact was violent enough to knock the mask off Montembeault. Then, all five Habs’ skaters on the ice acted as if Kassian didn’t do anything wrong. Not a single one of them went after the Oilers’ forward.

Because he was the only one who at least skated to the Oilers’ goon but didn’t drop the gloves, Jeff Petry is getting the blunt of the fans and medias’ ire. Those people completely ignore that there were four other skaters on the ice and none of them even went anywhere close to Kassian. Not even a 6’2″ and 200 lbs young forward trying to earn a regular spot… Ryan Poehling. And don’t give me the excuse that “they didn’t see it“. Your goalie is maskless behind his net, the referee called a penalty with Kassian standing right there. Unless you’re dumber than a door nob, you should be able to put two and two together.

Post-game comments

We knew that the following media availability would be interesting, to say the least. Fortunately, the comments were better than the players’ reaction on the ice.

In case you missed it, Pezzetta went to see Kassian in the 3rd period. According to Toffoli, Pezzetta was impatiently waiting, since the hit on Montembeault, for a chance to be on the ice at the same time as Kassian.

What make matters worse in the case of Jeff Petry is the fact that he wears a letter on his jersey as one of the team’s leaders. But let’s be honest here. This is not a battle that he should have had to fight by himself. It would actually be stupid of him to do so, in spite of what some people are claiming.

There’s something very wrong and very deep in this dressing room. Petry cannot take on Kassian. It would be stupid of him. But clearly, he didn’t trust that the other players on the ice would have his back and he would have been left defending himself against one of the NHL’s heavy-weights. And that, folks, is where the real issue is. That’s what most fans are missing in this event. Dominique Ducharme saw it and he nailed it in his post-game comments.

“I want to see five red jerseys go into the corner. I’d never ask one person to fight, but I want to see five reds in the corner.” ~ Dominique Ducharme

What if it was Carey Price, and not Montembeault, who would have been the victim of Kassian’s cheap shot? What would have happened then?

Fearing for the future

A wolf pack mentality. Players having each other’s back, going to war together. Defending each other. Had this happened in the playoffs last year, I guarantee you that Petry would have been in there. But the other players on the ice, knowing how uneven it was, would have stepped in as well. It’s also a lot easier to do when you have guys like Weber, Edmundson, Perry in the line-up…

So forgive me to be a bit scared when I hear Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes wanting a fast and skilled team. Have fans already forgotten our cute little soft smurf teams of the past? “All we have to do is make them pay by scoring on the power play,” once said then head coach Guy Carbonneau. Tyler Toffoli scored three seconds into the penalty to Kassian. How has that served any purpose last night, Guy? Ironically, Carbo had a guy by the name of Chris Nilan to his right when he was playing for the Habs… you may have heard of him.

Not that there’s anything wrong with skills… as long as they don’t return to the pre-Bergevin years and sacrifice toughness. Otherwise, you’ll see more of what we’ve witnessed last night. If you don’t believe me, just look down the 401 at the Toronto Maple. Or look at what Tampa Bay did after loosing in four straight to a more rugged Columbus team.

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