As I watched Nathan Horton lying on the ice, eyes rolling into the back of his head, my initial reaction was that Rome hit him high and that the hit was extremely late. After a million replays, I didn’t really change my mind on my initial reaction. Sadly, I feel this is just another example of players not having respect for each other on the ice. Sure, Nathan Horton did something wrong but Aaron Rome DIDN’T have to drill him into the ice. You want to hit Horton, put the shoulder into his chest, not up high. Horton, like many other before him, paid a price for admiring a pass he made. He didn’t make the pass an immediately look up ice. His head was down, he didn’t see Rome coming and we know the result. When we start playing this game, its drilled into our heads NOT to do what Horton did last night but at the same time, it should be drilled into our heads NOT to do what Rome did.
The funny thing is that whenever we see hits like this, especially in the post-season, somehow Scott Steven’s name always seems to come up. Yes, he played the game like a linebacker. Yes, he injured a number of people and yes, I truly believe that he would have probably been victim to Rule 48 a few times as there is video of Stevens issuing a lateral side hit where the head/chin seems to be the target. If this blog had existed while Stevens played the game, I don’t doubt that I would have thrown the “respect of other players” around at him as well BUT the fact is, Stevens doesn’t play now, the NHL was a different back then so when guys like Matt Cooke or Aaron Rome put a guy into a stretcher, don’t bring up Steven’s name into the conversation because Stevens was never the type of player that broke the rules with his hits. Had Rule 48 existed, Stevens would have followed the rules, I truly believe that. Despite all the punishing hit, how many elbowing Penalties did Stevens get in his career? FOUR!!
An observation from last nights game that I would love the Devils to put into their game plan was the hitting. I’ve mentioned this a few times in various post-season posts and discussions. The Devils are a team that doesn’t hit much. Surprisingly Vancouver and Boston weren’t really those kind of teams either this season (Ranking 20 and 21 in total hits last season, where NJ ranked 28th) but I have no doubt that the way Boston punished Vancouver against the boards last night opened up oppurtunities for their offense to put in some goals. If the Devils would become a little more aggressive in the hitting department, I do believe it would allow the offense to generate some chances. I got on them during the season that they didn’t hit enough and hope that whoever comes in to coach this team, brings along a more aggresive approach to the hitting aspect of the New Jersey Devils.