It took all of two minutes and 15 seconds for the first meeting between the Bruins and Avalanche in over two years to turn downright nasty with a Taylor Hall hit that left Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon in a bloodied heap.
Fed a pass from Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog in an attempt to spark a rush the other way, MacKinnon attempted a deke through an oncoming Hall, but was instead whacked by Hall, and then crushed in the face by his own stick. As MacKinnon gushed blood onto the Ball Arena ice, Landeskog wasted no time trying to get Hall to answer for the hit.
He did it in the immediate aftermath of the hit, and wasn’t done there. Landeskog tried to hunt down Hall twice on the same shift later in the game, and Erik Johnson tried to get his money’s worth with about five crosschecks to the back of Hall during the Black and Gold’s second-period power-play opportunity. Johnson stopped getting the benefit of the doubt after the third crosscheck and was whistled for a penalty, and the Bruins scored two goals during Johnson’s time in the penalty box.
But throughout the night, Hall had no interest in answering for what he clearly felt was a clean hit with an unfortunate result.
The on-ice officials actually agreed with Hall, too, as they initially ruled Hall’s hit a five-minute penalty but knocked it down to a two-minute minor upon video review and confirmation that it was MacKinnon’s stick that did the bulk of the damage. (It probably would’ve been nothing at all if the officials were allowed to reduce a five-minute penalty to nothing at all.)
Still, Hall’s decision to keep his gloves on for all of his 17:37 of time on ice didn’t sit well with the Avalanche.
“We might have spent a little too much time [chasing Hall], but that’s why I was hoping Hall was going to settle it with me and we could move on,” Landeskog said. “Hall didn’t wanna answer for it, and that’s unfortunate.”
“We wanted the guy to answer,” Cale Makar added.
It was a hit that Avs coach Jared Bednar believed Hall had to answer for, too.
“I think in the regular season, you just have to answer for things you do on the ice, you know?” Bednar said. “Just because the officials or the Department of Player Safety doesn’t deem something that bad, it’s what your team is willing to accept as playing within the way they see the game should be played. And if your teammates don’t like something that a guy on another team does, and they feel like that was inappropriate, then they’re going to try and get you to answer the bell or force you into it. That’s the way I see it. The players discipline the game as much as the officials do.”
Gabriel Landeskog - not a fan of Taylor Hall:— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 27, 2022
It’s hard to find much of anything wrong with the hit itself. Players like MacKinnon need to be played physically. It’s your only hope of slowing them down because you’re not going to out-skill or out-talent them. It’s just impossible. It feels weird every time we act that all-world players aren’t allowed to be hit. I mean, we saw the Blues do this all the way to a Stanley Cup in 2019 and it was universally praised as “tough hockey.” And if the Avalanche wanted true revenge, they would’ve thrown MacKinnon’s stick rack into the incinerator. That’s what did in MacKinnon more than Hall and his 24th hit of the season.
So, what was wrong with the hit?
“Little high, little late. Don’t love the hit,” Bednar said when asked about the incident. “It’s the type of hit — whether it’s really solid or a glancing blow — that the league is trying to get rid of.”
“They’ve made it pretty clear over the last couple of years that they’re trying to get rid of those [hits],” echoed Landeskog. “At the end of the day, when one of your best friends and teammates and ultimately your best player gets hit like that, you just gotta make sure that next time anybody thinks about doing that, they have to pay a price and there will be some consequences with that. Doesn’t have to be a dirty play for us to feel that way. It’s just the way it is.
“I was trying to force him to [fight]. But he didn’t want to.”
The Avalanche will get another chance to get at Hall when they make the trip to Boston on Feb. 21.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 4-3 loss in Colorado…