LOS ANGELES - Let us play connect-the-dots.
* No supplemental discipline was meted out by the NHL for the Ottawa Senators-Montreal Canadiens line brawl in Game 3.
* The Los Angeles Kings-St. Louis Blues series -- pre-advertised as a knock-down, drag-out bruisefest that was certain to leave the survivor in no shape to play Round 2 -- is, according to Kings coach Darryl Sutter, the least-penalized series of the playoffs through five games.
* Oh, and commissioner Gary Bettman, in an informal conversation with a couple of writers prior to Game 5 of the Anaheim-Detroit series Wednesday, more or less shrugged off the line brawl and said that as long as no heinous acts occurred, what was the big deal? These things happen once in a while.
Besides, ratings for their Game 4 rematch were terrific, bringing to mind the famous admonition of old-time Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe: "We're going to have to do something about all this violence, or people are going to keep buying tickets."
In other words, the NHL not only is kind of okay with the return of the hard edge to the game after a few years of post-2005 free-wheeling -- although it’s hard to recall playoffs ever being a day at the beach -- it’s positively delighted with it.
And Sutter and his St. Louis counterpart, Ken Hitchcock, who may not coach from the same playbook but prize (and demand) a good many of the same qualities in their players, are quite content to battle on those terms.
“I think we’d both like to score more goals,” Sutter said Thursday at the team’s El Segundo training facility, where his team, up 3-2 in the series, took a day off the ice in preparation for Friday’s Game 6 at Staples Center.
“(But) both teams check so well, both teams try and forecheck, and they’ve probably spent more time in our zone than we’d like, but it’s been like that -- it’s been a banging series.
“But it’s also been the least-penalized series, if you look at it, so it tells you the style both teams play and the discipline they play with. That’s why it’s a long series and I think a good series.
“Everybody talks about how physical it is, I think there’s a lot of oohin’ and aahin’ when there is a hit, but I watched the Toronto-Boston game this morning and I think it’s really similar to ours. And I watched it because I enjoyed watching it. I don’t think it’s any more physical at all. I think there’s a lot of work done along the boards and that’s what playoffs are.”
Some think that’s a shame. Other celebrate it.
Either way, the signs of combat are everywhere. Kings defenceman Robyn Regehr’s face looks like it’s been through the meat-grinder, having broken his nose on the heel of St. Louis captain David Backes’s skate in Game 1, been struck in the ear in another game and taken another shot to the beezer in Game 5.
“It was broke,” said Sutter, “so you can’t re-broke it.”
Dustin Brown is cut across the bridge of the nose, Dustin Penner is, as usual, missing a front tooth (he probably just never wears it on camera). And those are just the players the Kings produced for interviews Friday.
“I don’t remember all the statistics from all the series’ past, but I read there were 370-some hits (in this series) going into Game 5,” said Penner, who was part of the Kings’ dominant group in last year’s Stanley Cup run and an even more imposing lineup with the Cup-winning Ducks of 2007. “I have to think this is the most physical one I’ve been a part of so far.
“When you’re inside the game, as players, you don’t maybe notice it. But when you hear other guys around the league, like ‘wow’ from friends on different teams, that’s when you take a step back and say, ‘Yeah, it actually is as physical as they’re saying.’”
Sutter’s own scars have long healed, but the aches are still there from years of warfare in his Chicago days.
“Those old divisions where you had to win two series in your division, so you knew you were playing the same teams every year -- that was quite a bit different,” he said. “You played them how many times during the year, and then you knew you weren’t going nowhere until you got out of your division. Which is sort of the way we’re going again with the 8 and 7 (team divisions) next year.
“I think size matters, speed matters, smart matters.”
Muscle? That doesn’t hurt, either.
And everything is less painful when you’re winning.
Regehr’s face is a case in point.
“Although those things happen in the regular season, at playoff time, you don't see anybody complaining,” said Dustin Brown. “That's probably the biggest difference.”
Sutter has been no less demanding this year than last.
“No, Darry's Darryl,” said the Kings captain. “He's probably harder this time around because he doesn't want us to rest or think it's going to be easy. Partly, it's because we've lost two games, and we lost four all (playoffs) last year.”
“You know what, we’re still a young team so there’s still a lot of constant reminders,” Sutter said. “If you forget one thing, if one player forgets one thing ... they’re not perfect. People always want to compare it to last year, but this is different -- you’re playing every other day, and it’s hard. There’s no break, you come right out of a 48-game schedule and you’re right into it.”
Physically, it’s harder. With these two teams, and these two coaches, it always will be.
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