By Brad Lee
Quick programming note: We will have a live blog tonight.
Chris Pronger's high level of play can help you forget how much of a douche bag he can be.
The Blues will see Pronger firsthand and experience his dichotomy tonight in Anaheim in the first game of a five-game road trip. It's not going to be easy. Part of it is Pronger. Part of it is the Ducks are still a pretty good team.
No doubt, Pronger is one of the top defensemen to ever skate in the NHL. A former Hart Trophy winner as league MVP and a Norris Trophy winner as the league's best defenseman, Pronger at certain points in his career was dominating. His huge frame clears the opposition from the crease. He's not afraid to ride a guy into the boards. His most potent offensive weapon is his long outlet passing ability. But he can also be a dick.
It hasn't been easy for the gap-toothed giant. He had a run-in with alcohol as an under-aged youngster in Hartford. He was traded at a young age for one of the most popular Blues on the team at the time. He was booed. Fans brought signs giving him shit in his home arena. He was named captain at probably too early an age.
He almost died on the ice after a hard shot stopped his heart. He screwed up his wrist and had to have experimental surgery used primarily for senior citizens. He was sold off by his team as a cost-cutting move by his team after it was put up for sale.
Pronger requested a trade from Edmonton while dogged by nasty rumors of knocked up girlfriends. After he was sent to Anaheim, fans in Alberta were pissed. There were rumors about people burning the furniture in his house that proved unfounded. He won a Stanley Cup in Southern California. He lives down the street from his good friend Mark McGwire and switched his number to 25 to honor the disgraced slugger.
And then there are the suspensions.
1995 - Four games for hitting Pat Peake in the throat intentionally with his stick.
1998 - Four games for slashing Jeremy Roenick. He swung at his head.
2001 - One game for leaving the bench to start a fight with Kelly Buchberger after that asshole messed up Pavol Demitra's face with an elbow.
2002 - Two games for cross-checking Brenden Morrow who started bleeding from one of his eyes.
2004 - One game for kicking Ville Nieminen.
2007 - One game in the playoffs for hitting Tomas Holmstrom in the head with his elbows.
2007 - One game in the same playoffs for hitting Dean McAmmond in the head with an elbow.
2008 - Eight games for using his skate to stomp on the leg of Ryan Kesler.
Granted, the guy is a giant and when he hits smaller players, his elbow is right in a position to seriously injure and maim. But he's reckless. He's a hot head. He's unpredictable. That can help and hurt a player. For Pronger, it seems like it's catching up to him. He's now a repeat offender. Every time he gets called on the carpet for a dirty play, he could see some significant time off every single time. He's a target.
Take for instance a play a week ago that put Pronger back in the spotlight. In a game against Detroit, Pavel Datsyuk came across the blue line in traffic without the puck. He collided with Pronger awkwardly. He was introduced to the big elbow and went down like a sack full of beets. He's avoided a suspension on the play, but he might not be so lucky in the future.
Anaheim played a "road" game Tuesday night...in Los Angeles. The Ducks are in the conversation concerning the third best team in the Western Conference. San Jose has been the obvious class of the conference with Detroit a close second.
The Ducks came away with an overtime 1-0 win last night. At the end of a power play in the first minute of overtime, the Ducks moved the puck around on the four on three. Teemu Selanne slid the puck from the left circle to the right circle where Pronger had crept forward. He took a one-timer and buried the puck top shelf for the win. He's still got it.
Oh, and the Blues need a win to keep from falling below .500 on the season and somehow remain in the playoff discussion. The Blues have four goaltenders traveling with the team right now. I have no idea how many are actually healthy or able to play. If they played all four at once, I bet the Blues would come close to a shutout.
And it doesn't get any easier for the Blues after this. San Jose is possibly the best team in the entire league right now. Can't wait for that game. Come back tonight for the live blog. BYOB.