Here’s the video of the Lapierre hit on Pat Kaleta. Make sure you stay tuned for Rivet destroying Tom Kostopoulos. Not only is that part fun because Rivet switched hands, but you can hear the fight turning in Rivet’s favor by when the crowd starts booing. Good times.
I know as a Sabres fan it’s hard to sound impartial on this, but Lapierre should be suspended for that hit. Sure Kaleta’s helmet should have been more secure, but he also shouldn’t have had his head driven into the glass while trying to play the puck.
Kaleta didn’t turn his back to him at the last moment, he had established position and made a play along the boards. Contact may be implied, but clearly not to that extent. There is finishing your check and then there is intent to injure, and this hit clearly sits closer to the latter on the slide rule.
Thus far we haven’t had an update on Kaleta’s status, but on Saturday Lindy Ruff said they “deemed him to have a concussion.” That’s not good news this close to the end of the season, especially with the injuries he’s already dealt with this year.
Ruff also said something pretty interesting when asked about the hit:
“You can tell the impact by the fact his helmet flew off his head,” Ruff said. “I disagree with the lack of respect that he showed our player on the play.”
Not to be all over Lindy on this, but I think that’s a big hypocritical given the way Kaleta plays the game. I’m not calling him dirty or saying he doesn’t respect other players, but he’s certainly close to the borderline most of the time. The fact of the matter is that the way Kaleta plays hockey leaves him susceptible to these kind of plays.
Whether justified or not, many players go out there looking to “even the score” with Kaleta, and that’s going to get him hurt. Part of this mentality is just the nature of the game at this point, but it is also impacted by the way Kaleta hits and finishes his checks. This is the second time this season Kaleta has left Montreal with an injury, and that’s not a coincidence. Montreal clearly has a problem with how he plays, and they’ve made a point to get back at him this season. Again, think about how the fans reacted to that hit. Others get upset about what Kaleta does just like we get upset about Avery, Carcillo, and Neil. Whether they are the same degree of dirty or not, that’s the truth.
What Lapierre did on Saturday was clearly dirty and warrants action from the league, but it won’t be the last time we see this happen to Kaleta in his career. It’s also very clear that the NHL needs to address hits from behind soon, before something much worse than a concussion is the consequence. And when they do, it’s going to impact how Kaleta plays in more ways than what kind of hits he receives.