The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/30/11 at 03:43 PM ET
I’d generally prefer to keep this story in the game-day update mega-post, but as it seems pertinent enough to merit its own entry, Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi did speak to the media this morning about his hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Johnson, insisting that a hit which resulted in a 5-minute major and a game misconduct was not premeditated in any way, shape or form, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Jeff Sanford notes:
“I thought he was in a really bad spot so I tried to ease up and go with my side and tried to hit him more with my butt in the stomach than anything,” Bertuzzi said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “I know if I went straight on I could have hit him pretty hard. If it was a guy who hits all the time and knows how to hit properly, I could’ve hit him really hard. He had his head down coming around the net, coming around the corner trying to make a hockey play, which you have to respect. ... I could’ve hit him really hard so I tried to ease up. When I eased up, your body goes a little bit loose and I caught him with one of my armpits.”
In a season plagued with serious and high-profile head injuries, the line between a strong hockey play and an illegal cheap shot is thinner than ever in the NHL. Bertuzzi’s hit on Monday illustrates how difficult the balancing act can be.
“If you see a guy like that you got to finish your check,” Bertuzzi said. “That’s what we’re paid to do and told to do. But at the same time you don’t want to, I don’t want to put the guy through the boards. For what? But I got to finish my check on him and make sure that he knows I’m there and I got to try to get the puck. At the same time, I try to do the right thing, and it almost kind of got away a little bit. I’m glad he’s fine. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
It was reported that following the hit on Johnson, Bertuzzi met with the Blackhawks’ center during the first intermission, and apologized.
“It was just something me and him discussed, and we’ll just leave it at that,” Bertuzzi said.
Wings coach Mike Babcock told Sanford that the reaction to the fact that Bertuzzi was not suspended has more to do with Bertuzzi’s reputation than the reality regarding a player who’s grown up on and off the ice during his second go-round in Detroit:
“I think Bert has had one incident,” Babcock said. “The incident went real bad on him. … I think it’s something we talk about day after day after day for no reason. There hasn’t been anything that I’ve seen him do since he’s been with the Red Wings, in the two and a half or whatever years he’s been here, that indicate any of that. He finished the check last game. There’s going to be some contact to some heads in the league when guys are not trying to do it. That’s the reality.”
It was the right call as Bertuzzi did end up leaving his feet and elbowing Johnson in the head. The bottom line is that Johnson’s OK and Bertuzzi admits that he didn’t mean to do what he did, and the 5-minute major and game misconduct essentially served the purpose of a suspension. I do agree with Babcock regarding the fact that your or my reaction as to whether Bertuzzi’s hit was suspension-worthy has more to do with whether you believe he’s a monster or a hockey player who did a very, very bad thing half a decade ago.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.