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The Daily News of Los Angeles
The Tampa Bay Lightning took a licking and kept on ticking in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with an elimination of Boston despite Brad Marchand's strange desire to turn Ryan Callahan into a Slurpee.
This Eastern Conference semifinal made NHL history because of unprecedented headlines like this: "Coach Urges Marchand Not To Lick Opponents."
Marchand did not receive a penalty for his comprehensive licking of Callahan's face, or for his kiss to the cheek of Toronto's Leo Komarov in the previous series.
Doctors warn against dogs licking faces, no matter how cute it looks on Facebook. The same bacterial danger probably applies to Marchand, who did not decide to taste any heavy playoff beards.
Marchand, a fabulous and fabulously mischievous winger, apparently got tired of pushing the envelope and licked it instead.
But when he put his stamp on these playoffs, he generated far more copy and conversation than acts of real skullduggery.
Washington's Tom Wilson is a former first-round draft choice and another gifted winger whose malice overshadows his mastery.
In the Capitals' series against Columbus he needlessly floored Alexander Wennberg of Columbus. Against Pittsburgh, he clipped Brian Dumoulin with an elbow in Game 2. Then he launched himself into Zach Aston-Reese and broke his jaw in Game 3.
He got a penalty for the Wennberg incident but not for the other two. It took a review by the Department of Player Safety to sideline Wilson for three games, primarily because the 6-foot-4, 194-pound Wilson has been suspended twice and left a trail of unconsciousness throughout his career.
This is a good time to pick up a copy of "Game Change," by Ken Dryden, the Hall of Fame goaltender.
It is the story of Steve Montador, the exuberant defenseman who played for six NHL clubs, including the Ducks.
Montador died in 2015, four days before his daughter was born. Opioids, THC, valium and cocaine were found in his system.
He was a seeker, an includer, an overachiever for whom 24 daily hours never were enough.
He also began picking up concussions when he was 12. As his NHL career wound down and as lockouts idled him, he spiraled.
The Canadian Sports Concussion Project found CTE in Montador's brain.
Daniel Carcillo, a highly penalized NHL alum who campaigns for head safety, was with Montador near the end.
"He was researching concussions," Carcillo told Dryden, "and what the (deleted) was going to happen to him. ... And the more knowledge he gained ... the worse he got, realizing maybe that he wasn't going to reverse the symptoms and the memory loss and the headaches."
Dryden traces the problem to hockey's evolution. A slow, grinding game, in which wingers stayed on their designated sides and everyone carried the puck, became today's thrilling carnival of speed, stretch passes, unobstructed play in the neutral zone and brutal hits.
Dryden singles out the relatively new concept of finishing checks. "We need to see 'finishing your check' as what it is; interference," Dryden writes.
Some will argue that the game is too fast to avoid head contact, that the victims are often to blame, etc. They will say many head shots are accidents, and what do you do about that? Well, it's an accident when you flip a puck over the glass, but it's delay of game nevertheless.
"All of us need to be saved from ourselves at times," Dryden writes. "Steve did. It's why we have traffic lights. The league needs the players to go full out when it's time to go full out. The players need the league - its doctors, rule-makers and decision-makers - to say stop when it's time to stop."
Dryden refers you to the rule that bans players from bashing opponents in the head with sticks. That used to happen a lot. It rarely happens now. Players adjusted.
"The rule (60.2) doesn't say anything about whether the head was the main point of contact, or whether the player should have seen the stick coming, had his head down or tried to draw the penalty," Dryden writes. "The league decided a stick to the face is a bad thing. It is a penalty. Automatic. Period."
Sidney Crosby's addendum was this: "If a guy's got to be responsible for his stick, why shouldn't he be responsible for the rest of his body?"
Dryden says head shots with the intent to injure should warrant automatic suspensions. Perhaps they should always be five-minute majors, power plays that don't end with just one goal.
It's a special book, primarily a lament for the return of common sense, for responsibility in the commissioner's office, and for Steve Montador's truncated life.
Maybe Brad Marchand was providing unintentional satire, dealing licks instead of wounds.
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