If Devon Toews is dangerous, Corey Perry is malignant.
Or is it hockey etiquette when a player is helplessly sprawled out on the ice, the way J.T. Compher was in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, to put your entire weight on the sprawled player’s leg, like the footstool at a library, while digging your knee into the sprawled player’s ankle?
“It’s one of those plays you don’t want to see,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said of the hit by Toews, an Avalanche d-man, on Nikita Kucherov, a Tampa Bay forward, at the end of a 6-2 Bolts laugher in Game 3, setting up a critical Game 4 Stanley Cup Final showdown Wednesday at Amalie Arena.
“It’s a dangerous play. You never want to see that. We’ll see if anything happens. Probably not. But it’s a dangerous play.”
If Toews is dangerous, Kucherov is malevolent.
Or is it kosher to skate at a guy’s back, full-tilt, and to then blindside him squarely between the numbers in a fashion that sends him straight into the boards?
Is it cool to ram your right shoulder, at game speed, into the guy’s neck in order to ensure he gets a face full of glass, like a bug on a windshield, the way Kucherov did to Avs defenseman Josh Manson?
The sort of collision that should have drawn a penalty — and didn’t — a few minutes before the hit that got Hedman and Tampa coach Jon Cooper so darn worked up?
“When you get asked questions like that,” Cooper said of the contact between Toews and Kucherov along the boards that forced the latter out of action, raising doubts about Kucherov’s status for Wednesday night. “You’re looking for an answer that everybody in the building already knows.”
A thief knows a thief as a wolf knows a wolf.
“It’s a game. It’s a contact game,” Cooper continued. “But guys know what they’re doing. Smart, savvy players know what they’re doing with their stick. We all saw it.”
We all saw Kucherov and Manson, too. We all saw Perry and Compher last weekend. Pot, meet kettle.
The Lightning aren’t just the defending, two-time Stanley Cup champs. They’re gold-medal hypocrites.
They’re the neighbor who complains to the HOA about your mailbox while leaving his Christmas decorations up ‘til Valentine’s Day.
They’re the co-worker who wags a finger about your diet while he’s stuffing his face with Heath bars.
They’re the sister who warns that your kids watch too much TV while your nephews stare, like a row of transfixed, cherubic zombies, into their respective iPads.
“We’re playing the best team (in the league), they’ve won (titles) back to back,” Avs center Nathan MacKinnon told reporters. “We know they were too proud to go away.”
Too shrewd. Too wily. But the Lightning admonishing anybody else, let alone Devon Toews, about fair play and sportsmanship is like listening to Yosemite Sam lecture on anger management.
Lest we forget, it was Tampa Bay that had cleverly managed to circumvent the salary cap last season by putting Kucherov on long-term injured reserve. The Russian winger was declared healthy enough to activated for the ’21 postseason, where the NHL’s cap rules — and here’s the clever part — no longer applied.
We know the rest: Kuch was brilliant, and Tampa won its second straight Cup. Even though CapFriendly.com pegged them with a projected cap number of $98.8 million in a league where the limit was $81.5 million.
Because at this stage of the game, the smart, savvy guys know exactly what they’re doing. And so do you, Coop. So do you.