You know that taste in your mouth when you almost vomit, but stop yourself before anything happens? You know how that taste stays with you for so long, even if you try and wash it down? I had that taste in my mouth pretty much all of last night, and it had nothing to do with the mushroom & swiss burger I had at Hard Rock Cafe before the game.
Well almost nothing, at least.
Last night's game between the Blues and the Sharks was set to be an early season clash of titans, as both teams came into the rink undefeated and largely unchallenged through the first two weeks. Then 5:22 into the first period, this happened:
Dan Boyle would lay motionless for several minutes until a stretcher took him off the ice. Fortunately he was moving his arms as he was being rolled off. He was held in a local hospital over night and thankfully as of this writing, reports say he's "doing okay."
Maxim Lapierre threw his check straight into Boyle's numbers while Boyle was in a vulnerable position. Lapierre had ample time to change his mind about the hit and chose not to do so. If his suspension is less than 5 games, he should thank his lucky rabbit's foot.
That one moment changed the entire complexion of the game. When the dust had cleared from the hit, the retaliations, and the fights, 67 penalty minutes were dealt out in that moment alone, including both Lapierre and Ryan Reaves getting thrown out after their second shift of the game, to go along with Lappy's five minute major. At that point, both teams got chippy the rest of the way, forcing the refs to call more borderline minors to try and keep control of the proceedings. What was supposed to be a showcase for two of the best teams in North America who don't get all that much national exposure turned into a special teams battle (that the Blues clearly weren't ready for - but that's another rant) where one team was forced to double shift two forwards for practically the entire game, gassing the entire roster. Alexander Steen saw 21:09 of ice time, a number befitting of a first pairing defenseman on most nights.
All because of one incredibly stupid and avoidable play.
Even more troubling is this assertion from Sharks forward Logan Couture (via the San Jose Mercury News):
What galled Couture even more was that Lapierre, who was suspended four games for a March 2010 hit on then-Shark Scott Nichol, had been chirping from the St. Louis bench earlier in the game.
"After the first shift, he's yelling at us from their bench that he's coming after us, and then he does that," Couture said. "I don't even know. It's pretty gutless."
If that's true, it implies that even if it wasn't exactly premeditated, Lappy was at least looking for someone to shove somewhere.
Here's the real kicker, though: if you've followed Lapierre's career, none of this is a surprise.
When Lapierre was signed by GM Doug Armstrong, it already felt like a signing-for-the-sake-of-making-a-signing. The Blues already had Chris Porter, Vladimir Sobotka, and new signing Keith Aucoin to man the 4th line center position, and all for less than (or in Sobotka's case, comparable to) Lappy's $1.1 mill cap hit. Army had already lost out on Vincent Lecavalier, Stephen Weiss, and Valtteri Filppula, and pickings were scarce down the middle of the ice.
Even still, Lapierre would've been a decent, low risk investment - if he weren't such a risky investment. For "garbage" such as this:
Or "le garbage" such as this:
Or even this:
Tuesday night wasn't even the first time this season that Lapierre has taken a stupid, dirty penalty. His check in the back (see a pattern yet?) boarding Andrew Shaw wasn't as vicious, nor did it require a stretcher, but it led to a Patrick Kane goal (which is arguably just as repulsive) that at the time tied the game.
Now, I'm not saying that the rest of the St. Louis Blues are perfect little angels. Playing on the edge of the rules has been a staple of St. Louis hockey literally since the beginning. Even before the Broad Street Bullies, there were the Plager brothers and the bruisin' Blues. But there is no place in the game for the kind of bullshit Lapierre has been known for for years, especially from a guy who doesn't really bring much else to the table.
Lapierre isn't the only Blue Note with a bit of a reputation, earned or otherwise. David Backes has been known to take a step or two too far over the line, though he's usually been much smarter about when and how he does so since being named captain. Barret Jackman, T.J. Oshie, Chris Stewart, Ryan Reaves, and Roman Polak all have edges to their game that occasionally goes overboard, but difference is that all of them have different dimensions to their games. Backes is a Selke-nominated shutdown forward who has twice scored 30 goals. Oshie is a spark plug that plays fast and strong in every facet of the game, and has an arsenal of killer shootout moves. Jackman is wise, veteran shutdown defenseman who'd be beloved in this town if he had never been forced to be a number one guy on some godawful teams. Even Ryan Reaves contributes the occasional bottle-popping goal, such as he did against Florida last week (which is apparently not on YouTube somehow...what the hell, people?). Lappy, on the other hand, is a pest who rarely drops the gloves and has only broken 20 points once in his career, despite playing 92% of his team's games for the past 5 years.
There is nothing Maxim Lapierre does that someone else on this roster or on the Chicago Wolves doesn't do better or (generally) cleaner.
In my season preview for Hockey World Blog, I described Lapierre as the personification of "every negative stereotype that fans of other teams have of the Blues." It's fine to not give a fuck about what other people think of the players on your favorite team (though please teach that to your Cardinals fan neighbors), but maybe you should think long and hard about what you think of them.