ARLINGTON, Va.The Bruins have heard the accusations from Capitals coach Dale Hunter and the rest of the organization that they are crossing the line, that they are head-hunters.
All the Bruins can do is shake their heads.
The B's are down two players right now with head injuries (Nathan Horton, Adam McQuaid). They have one player whose career is effectively over because of concussions (March Savard), and another who has been one of the strongest voices for concussion prevention (Patrice Bergeron) after his promising career was nearly derailed by a head injury.
Bergeron said he had no doubt in his mind that his teammates wouldn't target someone's head with malice.
No. I would hope not. Weve been in the middle of it on the other side of it with Marc Savard, Nathan Horton and me having deal with concussions, so its not fun," he said. "You never want that to happen. Were worried about playing playoff hockey, playing hard and within the rules while finding results. Games are played hard, especially this time of year. I havent seen anything thats out of the ordinary with our series."
Does Bergeron think it happens within the league?
I hope not, said Bergeron. Its about making sure we stay in our own bubble and not paying attention to whats happening outside our own room and our own team.
Claude Julien understood Hunter's comments probably sticking up for his recently-suspended player, Nicklas Backstrom. But still, Julien took major umbrage with his team being labeled as cold-blooded head-hunters.
"Being accused of head-hunting is ludicrous," Julien said. "Its ludicrous. Its ridiculous. Okay? Theres always going to be emotions in games and these are things that are happening. There were three cross-checks and they penalized one and suspended one. But were not whining about the referees and whats going on here. We need to win a game and we need to win a series and thats where our focus is on. Thats what it should be. There is not a coach in this leaguenot onethat is going to tell his players to targets somebodys head.It shows an innate misunderstanding of the game of hockey for anyone to think Tim Thomas hitting a player with his blocker, or Patrice Bergeron face-washing a player with a visor is even in the same zip code as something worthy of a match penalty.
Neither of those equals the kind of head-hunting the NHL is trying to vanquish.
There's no bigger Scarlet Letter in the NHL than being labeled a head-hunter, which is why the Bruins haven't taken kindly to the accusations.
Complaining about hits and lobbying for suspensions is as much a part of playoff hockey as overtime goals and postseason beards. But the Bruins finally had to fire back after hearing too much "head-hunting" jibber-jabber coming out of Washington.