The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/16/12 at 08:06 PM ET
Updated with a self-assessment from Stuart regarding his play: The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell spoke to several members of the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings about the levels of “cheap shots” and downright disrespectful play witnessed during the playoffs thus far, and Wings defenseman Brad Stuart not only called out Brendan Shanahan and the NHL’s department of player safety for their inconsistencies…
“I did read a comment right from Shanahan that mentioned discipline in the playoffs might be different than it was during the regular season because playoff games are more important to guys,” Stuart said. “They might take a one-game suspension in the playoffs that might be worth three or four during the regular season, which kind of sends mixed signals. If you can go after a superstar and get one game for it, knock him out for three or four games, whose got the advantage there? It does send a mixed message.”
Stuart said the only way the league is going to get a handle on this problem is by consistent enforcement.
“As players, I think consistency is something that would be more effective,” Stuart said.
But Stuart also told Waddell that players don’t like the fact that, as is predictable in these instances, the non-hockey media’s focusing on the rock-em-sock-em aspects of the game…
“I don’t know if it’s embarrassing, but it’s probably not the way we want to get ourselves on ESPN,” Stuart said. “I’m watching ESPN and they showed one goal from the Philly game and then three or four fights and all the other hits and (cheap shot) stuff. That’s probably not what we want as a league.”
And while Niklas Kronwall suggested to Waddell that playoff desire is getting in the way of common sense, and Jimmy Howard suggested that he’s very lucky that he’s not a skater given the out-and-out headhunting taking place, Stuart suggests that the NHL only bears half of the share of blame and responsibility for what’s going on:
“In the end, we’re all in this thing together as players,” Stuart said. “Guys are so much faster and stronger. Those things you’ve seen in the past are devastating. The game is so fast, if you don’t have respect for a guy, you can really injure him.”
Stuart added it’s too easy to blame the league for this ongoing issue and players have to start really pondering what they’re doing on the ice.
“We as players have to decide are we going to keep that level of respect for each other or are we going to throw it out the window and let the guys upstairs try to figure out what to do?” Stuart said. “We, as players, have to take responsibility as well. Let’s not blame the guy making the decisions because he’s a little bit unsure of what to do. Let’s take it upon ourselves to have that respect for each other. Those incidents wouldn’t happen and nobody would be talking about it.”
Update: And yes, according to NHL.com’s Brian Hedger, Stuart knows that he needs to crank up his play against the Predators, too:
Detroit trails its Western Conference Quarterfinal series 2-1 to the Nashville Predators, and every game has finished with a 3-2 score—including Sunday’s Game 3, in which Stuart was on the ice for two of the goals allowed. In all, he’s also been on the ice for six of the eight goals Nashville has scored so far and is tied with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin with a League-worst minus-4 rating.
“This time of year, any type of mistake can be the one that costs you the game,” Stuart said on Monday. “The players that dwell on that are the ones that kind of tighten up and don’t play their game. The other ones, who just go out and play, are the ones who have success this time of year. Mistakes are going to be made. There’s no question. It’s how you respond and how you deal with it that’s important.”
Stuart said he and his teammates who’ve been part of some mistakes in the first three games should be able to brush them off—especially with Detroit’s lineup featuring a lot of playoff-savvy veterans.
“This time of year the little things get talked about—every little play, every little mistake could be the difference,” Stuart said. “So, if you’ve had experience in dealing with that and know how to put it behind you, it’s a lot more effective than dwelling on something and letting it affect the rest of your game.”
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