WILMINGTON, Mass. – At a different point in his career, Zac Rinaldo might have acted totally differently after an opponent threw a dirty head shot at one of his teammates like the elbow to the chin Patrice Bergeron caught on Thursday night. Rinaldo certainly would have run around looking to return the favor to one of the Winnipeg players, or perhaps even targeted Alex Burmistrov after the Russian winger made it out the penalty box.
It’s that kind of mindset that’s led the Bruins fourth line winger to be suspended for 12 games over the course of his four-year NHL career. But Rinaldo isn’t interested in continuing to butt heads with the NHL Department of Player Safety. He'd rather attempt to make plays with his skating speed rather than his lowered shoulder pads.
“If I think like that I could fly off the handle,” said Rinaldo. “I really have to not even think about it. If I think about it I’ll get too infatuated with the idea of doing it. If the opportunity comes to make a clean, hard hockey check then I’m going to put everything I have into it. It’s been an ongoing process for me. Finally I’ve come to terms with the league.”
One thing that caught Rinaldo’s attention was the 41-game suspension handed out to Raffi Torres after his head shot on Jakob Silfverberg, a clear statement from the NHL about repeat offenders who target the head. The hard-hitting fourth liner doesn’t want to be next after the league already made an example out of Torres which he proved during his first game in a Bruins uniform.
“I don’t want to be suspended at all…never mind Torres getting suspended for 41 games without pay too,” said Rinaldo. “That’s the last thing I’m looking for in a new team. I love the guys on this team. A lot of guys in Bergeron’s situation would have dived. I told him I really appreciated that he didn’t flop down on the ice, and instead he got up and dealt with his business like a grown man should…like a leader should.
“Raffi is a great guy. I met him in the summer and he’s a great guy. And we both know how hard it is to make that right decision in such a quick millisecond. [The Torres suspension] did open my eyes, and my family and my friends told me to watch out, and that [the NHL] isn’t messing around. So they want to make a mark, and they did that. It really opened my eyes. There were three or four times when I really let up in that game [on Thursdaynight].”
It’s a tough situation for Rinaldo, who wants to play with that hard, dangerous edge to his game while also knowing full well that the NHL is watching every move that he makes. It seems pretty clear that Rinaldo isn’t aiming to be the next Torres in the eyes of the NHL disciplinarians.