Shortly after Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta was suspended for 10 games by Brendan Shanahan, St. Louis' resident rat Max Lapierre laid out his second dangerous hit from behind in five days.
On Oct. 9 it was Andrew Shaw who was levelled by Lapierre. That penalty called on karma and led to a power play goal by Chicago seven seconds later.
Tuesday night, San Jose's Dan Boyle was on the receiving end of one of Lapierre's patented cheap shots. Boyle had to be taken out on a stretcher, while Lapierre received a major and a game misconduct. There is no way to defend this hit. Zero. Zilch. None.
Lapierre is a professional pest who is paid to annoy the other bench and anyone who wants to pay attention. He yaps, he sticks, he hits and runs. And though that'll turn off various sections of fans from time to time, it's fair game for a pest. The best in Lapierre's field will earn the hate of fans so much, they'll learn to love to boo them.
But at some point – and possibly the Boyle incident was that point – Lapierre crossed from pest to scourge. It's the latest dangerous cheap shot for a guy who has 19 goals since Oct. 2010. And he's getting paid north of $1 million to dish it out. Don't believe Lapierre is a cheap player? How about this:
There are more…
And that's a cursory glance at YouTube. Lapierre received a four-game suspension for the hit on Nichol – AND NOTHING FOR ALL THE REST. That suspension, by the way, was three years ago, outside of the NHL's 18-month statute of limitations for repeat offenders, so it won't even factor in any potential ruling from Brendan Shanahan.
Lapierre spent all of seven seconds in the box for his infraction against the Blackhawks last week. It's time to sit him down for eight to 10 – though a lifetime ban in the face of this long history would be welcomed with open arms.
Hitting from behind is becoming a more and more regular thing in NHL games. Shortly after Lapierre's hit, Brent Burns creamed Brenden Morrow and only received two minutes for it. Neither was any better than the other, although Morrow didn't leave the game on a stretcher.
This play doesn't earn the same amount of attention as high hits do because so much focus is on concussions. But the consequences of a hit from behind gone bad have the potential to be much worse and much more immediate.
It's a tough spot. Hits from behind may seem to be happening more often, but so too are players turning their backs along the boards to protect the puck. Never understood that one. So while you wouldn't want to put a blanket five-minute penalty or game ejection on all hits from behind, you sure could encourage your referees to use that five and a game more often – and back them up when they do.
(And let's not drag fighting's place in the game into this one. Anyone out there think hitting from behind belongs in hockey, or finds it entertaining? Right.)
Matt Cooke was the most hated man in hockey for his misdeeds – and still may hold that title. But at least he's attempted to change his game. Lapierre seems content to keep taking runs at the numbers and not being punished or challenged for it often enough. Some more light needs to be shined on to this dangerously dirty player.
Because there is no other word to describe each and every one of the hits above than “garbage.”