Even more concerning than the St. Louis Blues 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, their fourth consecutive defeat, was the loss of T.J. Oshie, who left the game in the second period after suffering a vicious hit from Mike Rupp.
Carrying the puck up the boards, Oshie passed it off to Vladimir Sobotka at the point, then began to curl to the inside of the ice. There, Rupp stepped into him. The hit was late, it was to the head, and Oshie suffered an injury. For this, Rupp has been suspended four games:
It's a damning verdict, and Patrick Burke pulls no punches in explaining why it's suspendable.
"Well after Oshie releases the puck, Rupp drives his left shoulder into Oshie's head, making it the main point of contact and causing an injury. This is both an illegal check to the head and interference.
"If he wants to attempt to hit Oshie, he must do so within the allowable timeframe and in a legal manner. He does neither. Rupp hits Oshie at a point when he is no longer to be hit and in doing so, he takes an angle that picks Oshie's head."
The hit is nigh indefensible.
Which is what makes the defence from former Wild player turned analyst Wes Walz, tweeted a little earlier in the day, so strange:
listening to self proclaimed "hockey experts" call MIke Rupp a goon is wrong! MR never susp EVER and has been honest player his whole career— Wes Walz (@walz3737) April 11, 2014
Tough play with Osh last night,love him as a player BUT don't forget 2 weeks ago when Blues wanted to "send a message" to Wild #livebysword— Wes Walz (@walz3737) April 11, 2014
Moral of the story....play hard ALWAYS and be a TOUGH team to play against but do so....quietly. #headsupwhenheadingintoforest— Wes Walz (@walz3737) April 11, 2014
The "send a message" comment refers to a late March article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where both Barrett Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo stressed the importance of establishing their game against a Wild team that looked, at that time, like their probable first-round playoff opponents.
But one assumes headhunting is hardly the sort of message-sending they were alluding to. I would say that Walz's comments were off-base.
Ken Hitchcock went one step further, calling them disgusting.
"The comments by Wes Walz, knowing the [Wild] coaching staff the way I do, I don’t believe they would condone those comments," he told Jeremy Rutherford, "and quite frankly with a player getting hurt like that, they’re just disgusting."
Backing up Hitchcock's comments was Wild coach Darryl Sydor, who made sure to note that the hit wasn't an attempt to send a message. "We didn't mark anybody," he said.