To these eyes, it was difficult to determine exactly what Corey Perry’s level of intent was when he clipped Patrik Laine of Finland with his left leg when he was coming off for a line change in today’s World Championship game.
So I will defer to the observations of two former NHL players who have more than 2,000 games between them. And the fact that both Ray Ferraro and Bob Errey are analysts for the Canada-centric TSN broadcasts and lambasted Perry for his skullduggery provide further perspective on the situation.
“(Perry) sticks his left leg out,” Ferraro observed on the TSN telecast. “It’s a garbage play. You just can’t do that. Corey Perry would lose his mind if Patrik Laine did that to him. That’s just a dirty play. I don’t like it.”
Then when asked during the second intermission what he thought of the play, Errey said, “I didn’t like it, either. It was unnecessary, no question.”
So if we accept Ferraro’s and Errey’s assessments of the situation, that’s despicable. The Canadian squad focused much of its physical play on Laine for much of the game, which is understandable since he might be the best player in the tournament, and that’s just fine. A player who is that dynamic and offensively dangerous should expect to not be given a free pass. But to resort to that kind of play to neutralize a teenager and future NHL star is exactly what Ferraro called it – a garbage play.
And should tournament organizers agree, then Perry should be suspended for at least Canada’s quarterfinal game, regardless of the fact that Laine came back to play in the third period. That’s a potentially dangerous play that had the potential to put Laine out of the Finnish lineup for the rest of the tournament, and possibly cause him to miss the first part of his first NHL season. When asked by Ryan Rishaug of TSN about the play after the game, Perry replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Laine has been a beast in this tournament, leading the World Championship. Despite being held off the scoresheet in the Finns 4-0 win over Canada, he was a force almost every time he was on the ice. With six goals and 10 points, he leads his team in both categories and sits third in tournament scoring. He is proving to be every bit as good against men in this tournament as he was against teenagers in the World Junior Championship. The Winnipeg Jets, to whom Laine will almost certainly fall at second overall in the draft, have got to be seriously licking their chops at the moment.
One interesting facet of this tournament has been the contributions of the teenagers. It wasn’t long ago that this tournament was not a place for young players to shine, but that certainly hasn’t been the case at this year’s World Championship. There are a total of 15 teenagers on World Championship rosters. Finland boasts three of them in Laine, Sebastien Aho and Mikko Rantanen and USA has four in Auston Matthews, Dylan Larkin, Noah Hanifin and Kyle Connor. Matthews and Larkin share the scoring lead for the Americans. David Pastrnak, who turns 20 next week, has scored six points for a surprising Czech team that finished at the top of its group despite having only four NHL players on their roster. And even though Connor McDavid has yet to score a goal in the tournament, he has seven assists.
Give Laine credit a ton of credit here. The Canadians singled him out for extra post-whistle shots and chirping all game, and that was excluding the Perry cheapshot, and didn’t retaliate. Clearly, this is a player who has matured since being kicked off the Finnish team at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament two years ago for flipping the bird to his coach, then giving him a death threat. For kid who just turned 18 to show that kind of poise and maturity in the face of that kind of goading is truly remarkable.
Laine is a big part of what could be a golden age for Finnish hockey. With their 4-0 win over Canada in the last game of the preliminary round, the Finns took first place with a perfect 7-0-0 record and drew Denmark for their quarterfinal game. No team has ever won the men’s, under-20 and under-18 world titles in the same year, but if Finland is able to win three more games, they will become the first.
And if they do, no doubt Laine will be leading the way.