John Carlson did not play at all in the round robin and finally returned to action on Wednesday in Game 1 against the New York Islanders. But just on his second shift Carlson, not someone known for fighting, dropped the gloves with Islanders captain Anders Lee. Why? Because Lee had just delivered a late hit to the chest to the unsuspecting Nicklas Backstrom and Carlson was not happy about it. Not one bit.
"It looked real dirty to me," Carlson said. "I think when a guy is kind of coming up and kind of looking back at the pass, I've heard it a lot over the years that they're trying to take that out of the game. More than anything, as a player that's been around, you kind of sense the impact. Nicky doesn't get hit very often, so that should tell you all you need to know. He's probably one of the most aware players in the league. That was my reaction to what happened."
The hit appeared to be to the chest of Backstrom, but the puck was long gone by that point so it was very clearly late. It also seemed to be made worse by the fact that Backstrom did not appear ready for the hit, perhaps because the puck was not close. An unprepared Backstrom was then dropped to the ice by the hit.
Backstrom played only 7:21 for the game and did not appear in the second or third period.
Carlson was not the only one who was upset following the game.
"It looked extremely late," T.J. Oshie said of the hit. "In the frame I saw, there wasn't even a puck, and it still looked late. It's hard seeing a leader and a player like Backy is not only for our team, but pretty good role model as far as in the NHL, go down like that on a late, cheap play. It's out of our hands."
Head coach Todd Reirden did not have an update after the game saying Backstrom was continued to be evaluated. But even if he did not have much to say on Backstrom's health, he had plenty to say about the hit itself.
“[Backstrom’s] continuing to get looked at," Reirden said. "Obviously, he couldn’t finish the game. It was a late hit on an unexpected player that was in a spot [where] he was extremely vulnerable. So those are some things we saw there. It’s as simple as that. Like I said, late hit, the player wasn’t expecting it and it’s predatory.”
Not surprisingly, the Islanders saw the hit differently.
"I tried to throw the breaks on a little bit there, but I caught him, the end result after that a penalty, a couple of fights."
"It was one of those plays if you come laterally, especially with congestion at the blue line and Anders was making a hockey play. Anders is a strong guy."
Perhaps the biggest difference of opinion between the two teams is what this means going forward. Clearly the Caps thought the hit was dirty and warrants supplementary discipline. The Islanders, however, think the matter is settled.
"It was settled and then the game continued on," Lee said.
"I think the hit was made, they responded, Wilson went after Lee, they fought and that's probably the end of it," Trotz said. "We'll see."
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