The hit heard round the rink
When Detroit Red Wing Niklas Kronwall stepped forward at the Chicago blue line 13 minutes into Game 3 of the Western Conference final, slamming into Blackhawks forward Martin Havlat, he was intended to deliver a crushing blow to help turn around a game in which the Red Wings trailed, 2-0.
But Kronwall delivered his hit before Havlat touched the puck, when it was right between the Blackhawk’s skates. That resulted in a five-minute major to Kronwall for interference and a game misconduct.
“I thought a game misconduct was a little harsh,” said Kronwall. “But the referee has not that much time to make the call. He’s not trying to make a bad call. … It happened. It’s history.”
Kronwall was back on the United Center ice with his Red Wings teammates, Saturday afternoon, preparing for Sunday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference final (3 p.m.) – a series that Detroit leads 2-1.
Havlat, however, wasn’t practicing with his Chicago teammates. The Czech forward was looking down for the puck when Kronwall arrived and took the Red Wing’s shoulder hit high. It appeared as though Havlat was out cold before he hit the ice. He stayed down for minutes before being led back to the bench.
Havlat’s availability for Sunday’s contest will be determined at game time.
The hit was talked about at length in both teams’ locker rooms after Saturday’s practice sessions.
“It’s a dangerous hit,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “You know, (Havlat) didn’t touch the puck. The guy left his feet.”
“We want to see head shots eliminated,” said Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell, “guys exploding upwards.”
The view from the Detroit locker room differed.
Kronwall’s hit was his trademark check. More than a half-dozen times during last spring’s playoffs, the Swede delivered crushing blows to opponents just inside their blue line along the boards. None of those, however, led to an opponent lying motionless on the ice.
“It’s unfortunate to see him get hurt,” said Kronwall. “It’s so scary to see him go down like that. From my perspective, the puck went off the wall. He went to pick it up. I stepped in. He never saw me coming, I guess. He never touched the puck, but I felt the puck was right there.”
Part of the problem was the way that Havlat played the puck, waiting for it to clear through him rather than receiving it immediately.
“The puck was coming around the wall, (Havlat) saw it coming,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He turned, chose not to play it with his stick, was letting it come through his feet. Kronwall stepped up on it. That's hockey.”
“It was a clean hit,” said Kronwall’s defense partner, Brad Stuart. “The puck was there. There was no elbow. He didn’t leave his feet. You don’t like to see a guy laid out like that. But a lot of times, if you hit a guy too hard, they’re going to call a penalty. That’s kind of been what’s happening to us. It was a clean hit, but too hard. Those things happen.”
Havlat being injured on the play was also a possible factor in the penalty dished out to Kronwall.
“From the replays, I don’t know if any of the refs had their arms up when the hit happened,” said Kronwall. “Of course when you see a guy lying like that, it gives you more time to think. I think people that know me know that I never try to hurt anyone. I try to make a hit and it’s unfortunate that he got hurt.”
“It’s tough to watch,” said Chicago forward Patrick Sharp. “You never want to see a friend get hurt.”