November 29, 2011

Julien: Pacioretty hit ‘almost identical’ to Cooke-Savard incident

By Jesse Connolly

WILMINGTON – The Bruins escaped their recent hearing with league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahanunscathed when Milan Lucic wasn’t suspended for his collision with Ryan Miller. Boston’s bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, met a different fate.

Habs winger Max Pacioretty was suspended for three games by the league. The New Canaan, Conn., native cut across his defensive zone in a game against the Penguins in Montreal on Saturday night and made direct contact with his elbow to the head of Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang.

Letang, who has 19 points in his first 22 games for the Pens, was left bloodied on the ice after the collision but returned to action and eventually scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Pacioretty wasn’t initially penalized on a play that reminded Bruins coach Claude Julien of a similar, now-infamous incident involving Penguins forward Matt Cooke in March of 2010.

“To me, it resembled the hit [Marc] Savard took from Cooke a few years ago,” Julien said following Boston’s practice at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday. “It was almost identical. That’s the league’s decision to make. It certainly doesn’t have any links to what happened to him (Pacioretty) last year. It’s two totally different things. He was on the receiving end of one and then he was on the giving end of another.”

Julien, of course, is referring to the hit on Pacioretty delivered by Zdeno Chara during a game in Montreal last season that left the Canadiens winger with a fractured vertebrae and a concussion – a play that undoubtedly encouraged the league to reexamine its protocol and make a stronger effort minimize the growing number of devastating head-shots being dished out across the NHL.

“I think in a way they’ve made that as a group,” Julien said of the league’s decision. “I know ‘Shanny’ has kind of taken that role on, but I think the NHL as a group decided to take that stance and take it a step further. To me, sometimes if you want to get the message across you’ve got to be really harsh and strong on those decisions early on.

As far as Julien is concerned, that’s the only way to get through to players and make them think twice about following through with hits up high.

“You’re trying to educate players to have a little bit more restraint and composure, as far as those hits are concerned,” the Bruins coach said. “The only way to do that is to be hard right off the bat. I’m sure once everybody gets educated and those kinds of things get better, you’re going to see less and less of that going on.”