CHICAGO – The Canucks maintained there was nothing wrong with the hit by Raffi Torres that sent Blackhawks defender Brent Seabrook sprawling to the ice in Game 3 of their first-round series against Chicago.
The National Hockey League agreed and declined to suspend the Vancouver forward on Monday.
But that didn’t quell the war of words between the teams during off-day gatherings at the United Center on the eve of Game 4. The Canucks are gunning for a series sweep Tuesday against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in the second round last season.
Torres received a two-minute minor Sunday after using his shoulder to rock the Hawks defenceman in the head in the second period of Vancouver’s 3-2 victory in Game 3.
“I thought it was a clean hit,” Canucks winger Mason Raymond said. “It’s a physical game out there and there’s a lot of bodies being thrown (around). I’m glad to see it wasn’t a suspension.”
Centre Henrik Sedin said the Canucks had also been victimized by similar hits that weren’t penalized.
“There’s been some other hits that our team has been a part of that look the same and nothing has been done about that,” he said.
Torres declined comment after Sunday’s game and was not available on Monday.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, were vocal in their disagreement with what they felt was light punishment.
“I think he kept his elbow in, but he hit the head first,” Seabrook said following a team meeting at the United Center. “That was the only thing I felt … whether or not he was targeting it, the head was hit first.”
Seabrook briefly left the game after another hit but returned for the third period.
“I think with his history, that hit deserves a suspension,” Seabrook said. “I don’t think he was trying to hit me in the head, but at the same time if the league’s not going to suspend somebody for that, I don’t understand that.”
The NHL released a statement Monday afternoon to explain the decision.
“When Rule 48 (illegal check to the head) was unanimously adopted by the general managers in March 2010, there was no intention to make this type of shoulder hit to the head illegal,” said league disciplinarian Colin Campbell. “In fact, at that time, we distributed a video to all players and teams that showed a similar hit on a defenceman by an attacking forward coming from the opposite direction behind the net and stated that this is a legal play.
“This hit meets none of the criteria that would subject Torres to supplemental discipline, including an application of Rule 48: he did not charge his opponent or leave his feet to deliver this check. He did not deliver an elbow or extended forearm and this hit was not late.”
Torres was playing the first game back after a four-game suspension for a high hit on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle.
To Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp, there was a clear call to make.
“Blows to the head are illegal,” he said. “To me that’s what it was. This guy’s been suspended before and I’m sure he’s had a few conversations with the league about what’s over the line and what’s not.”
After the game, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said the Torres hit barely warranted any punishment.
“I don’t think it was a penalty,” he said. “But that’s me. Hockey’s a collision sport. There’s a lot of intensity and you’re always walking that fine line.”
Vigneault declined further comment Monday.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville felt the hit deserved a major penalty.
“The call on the ice is probably where we got hurt most,” Quenneville said. “That was a major penalty because (Seabrook) didn’t touch the puck. An impact hit like that you can be exposed to severe injuries and that’s the intent of the call.”
Neither team practised Monday. The United Center had already been converted for the Chicago Bulls’ NBA playoff game against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
The series would shift back to Vancouver for Game 5 if necessary.