“What a hit, eh?” Thornton asked with a smile. “That’s how you do it. Good, clean open-ice hit. Those are the hits we can’t lose. That’s hockey!”
The hit Thornton was referring to, of course, was Boychuk’s thunderous hit on Sabres forward Matt Ellis in the second period of the Bruins’ 2-1 win in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series that Boston now leads 2-1.
In a season where hits to the head have been in the spotlight — and a blindsided shot from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke gave Bruin Marc Savard a Grade 2 concussion and prompted the NHL to institute a new rule against such hits — Boychuk’s hit on Ellis was a legal, textbook and as Ellis deemed the hit himself Tuesday “a good, clean, hockey hit.”
“I knew I could hurt him. And if I wanted, I could’ve got my elbow up or hit the head, but I made sure I didn’t,” Boychuk told NESN.com. “You have time, maybe not a lot, but you have time to make the choice.”
Boychuk then showed the different options the hitter has and how one can still make a crowd-pleasing, momentum-changing hit without injuring the recipient. But he also pointed out how the recipient must keep his head up or else injuries can still occur.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter because we’re going so fast out there. If he isn’t looking up, then bad things can happen no matter what,” he said. “Of course there’s the choice. I am going to pull up if I can, but there are ways to make the hit like I’m saying and that’s what I did there. He had his head down a bit, but I knew I could make the hit I wanted without hitting his head.”
That’s why it irks Boychuk, Thornton and so many others when hits like Cooke’s on Savard invite so much scrutiny on the physicality of the game and cause rampant misinterpretation of what is and isn’t a clean hit.
“It’s a fast game and things are going to happen,” Boychuk said, “but there’s no need for that because then hits like this are tough to make.”
“We need that in the game,” said the big winger. “That’s what the crowd loves, we love it as players and we can’t lose that because some guys don’t get it and try to go for the head.”