Behind every star player, there is an intimidating force that strikes fear into the opposition. This fear is what prevents players from targeting stars. Wayne Gretzky had Marty McSorley, and Dave Semenko before him. Martin Brodeur had Scott Stevens. Mike Richards / Jeff Carter have Chris Pronger. Cindy Crosby has Hal Gill. John Taveras has Brendan Witt. Enforcers aren’t necessarily goons, but they are the big physical force that will make you think twice before laying out any of the stars.
The Rangers brought in Donald Brashear, and to a lesser extent Aaron Voros, to protect their stars. Brashear and Voros (and now Dane Byers) are out to protect Marian Gaborik, to ensure that no one takes any unnecessary liberties with one of the stars on our beloved Blueshirts. After all, if Gaborik is hurt, the Rangers are at a severe disadvantage. We’ve seen it the past week.
But what about that other star? The one that in the long term, means more to the organization than any player on the roster, and any player since Brian Leetch was forcibly removed.
Henrik Lundqvist seems to be on the receiving end of many an opposition hit lately. I say hit, because usually when running a goalie, the opposition at least pretends to avoid the netminder. But when it comes to running Lundqvist, it looks like players are lowering their shoulder and just plowing into him. They do this because there is no penalty for doing so, and I’m not referring to sitting in the box, although a few calls might help alleviate the situation.
When he was in the lineup, Brashear did nothing to punish the opposition for running their most important star. Voros has at least tried to fight. I’ve seen Michael Del Zotto, all 19 years of him, get in the face of some Phoenix Coyotes. That’s about it though.
How many times does Hank need to be down for an extended period of time before someone makes the opposition pay? Sooner or later, he’s not going to get up. Everyone’s heart skipped a beat when he didn’t get up immediately in Montreal. How many more times does that need to happen?
Someone needs to step up, it doesn’t matter who it is. If Del Zotto can face wash people twice his age, then someone else can step up and dish out some punishment. Sooner or later, Hank won’t get up.