Date: April 17
Location: United Center; Chicago, Illinois
When Blackhawks fans look back at the first round playoff series to the Phoenix Coyotes, a few things will stand out. Five straight overtime games. Little offensive production. Inconsistent play in net. And the first period of Game 3.
The series went back to Chicago tied at one with tensions running high. Back in Game 2, Andrew Shaw made a run at Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, resulting in a three-game suspension by the bipolar Brendan Shanahan, and an Emmy nomination for Smith. The series started to take a turn there. Game 3 yanked it sideways.
With roughly twelve minutes gone in a scoreless first period, Marian Hossa dumped the puck off to Jamal Mayers in the neutral zone. A second or two later, Coyotes winger Raffi Torres leapt into Hossa, making direct contact with his head. Hossa hit the deck, play was stopped, fights broke out, and the series wasn’t the same.
Hossa was taken off on a stretcher, but Torres wasn’t penalized during the game, igniting more rage from the Hawks and the crowd. Without one of their biggest and most physical scoring threats, the Blackhawks would win just one more game in the series. Raffi Torres was suspended 25 games for the play, but that has since been reduced. Only in the last week or so was Hossa cleared to return to the ice.
Torres’ hit on Hossa didn’t just impact this series, but how the league was operating during the postseason. Brendan Shanahan was losing control of the game, with incoherent punishments letting the players bend the physicality of their play. It all came to a head here, with a repeat offender making a dangerous play on a league star. It radically changed the Blackhawks prospects in the 2012 postseason, and led to more discussion about the sustainability of this roster in the current NHL.
I guess “current” may not be the best choice of words at the moment…
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9. Raffi Torres Hits Marian Hossa
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