Well, consider the pot stirred.
Rupp looked like a man on a mission when he took the ice with the Rangers trailing 3-0 in the third period of Monday's Game 4. He roughed up Steve Bernier at the faceoff circle, dropped Peter Harrold behind the net and gave Anton Volchenkov a decent push. Rupp's hands were dirtied, however, when he "punched" Devils netminder Martin Brodeur.
But although contact like that on Brodeur isn't exactly within the boundaries of the rules, any advocate of a suspension is just being unreasonable.
Rupp is a high-energy grinder; someone who's called upon to deliver hits, mix it up and get under the opponent's skin. Sometimes that requires some post-whistle extracurriculars, which are a fundamental part of any physical hockey team.
That's not to say there isn't a line that can be crossed. There certainly is. But to say Rupp crossed that line by making contact with Brodeur would be the epitome of softening the game.
Brendan Shanahan has been one of the NHL's most visible figures this season, largely because of his heavy-handed ways in terms of suspensions. He's proven inconsistent at times, but for the most part, any lengthy bans have been the result of players failing to realize what is and isn't acceptable when it comes to physical hockey. That's why we still see deliberate head shots — like Brandon Prust's on Volchenkov in Game 3 — and players leaving their feet to send others face-first into the boards.
Rupp's so-called punch, however, is harmless in the grand scheme of things. It isn't legal, is rather dirty and is sure to get players coming after him, but in no way is it a suspendable offense. Yet, the word "suspension" was actually muttered and tweeted in the wake of the incident.
It's hard to accuse Brodeur of flopping, because, really, few goaltenders expect to get hit out of the blue like that. But the reaction seemed a bit much for the amount of contact that was made. We're talking about a player in Rupp who had 13 fighting majors during the regular season, so if he wanted to truly get his money's worth, he could have sent an unsuspecting Brodeur flying into next week.
That was hardly the intention, though. The intention instead seemed like it was to start a scrum, ruffle some feathers and hope it fires up the rest of the team. Even though the game seemed well within the Devils' grasp at that point, the Rangers were in need of a jolt to carry over into Game 5, so Rupp — doing his job — took it upon himself to be the catalyst that provides that jolt.
The dust-up also seemed far worse than it actually was because of the reaction of the two head coaches, who jawed at each from their respective benches after Rupp's blow.
Brodeur said after the game that he doesn't expect Rupp to be suspended, and we shouldn't either. For as much flak as Shanahan often gets for coming down hard on players for certain hits, it's at least understandable that he's trying to cut down on the amount of injuries at a time when concussions have become such a hot-button issue. Slapping Rupp with any discipline aside from a penalty would mean Shanahan's suddenly become drunk with power, and that likely isn't going to happen.
Rupp makes a living off creating some occasional havoc, as do plenty of other notable NHL tough guys. If we're going to start suspending them all for minor altercations like Monday's, then we might as well remove their type of role from hockey altogether.
And that, my friends, would be ludicrous.
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