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Are the Canadiens the NHL's most hated team?

Montreal Canadiens' P.K. Subban reacts after being slashed by Tampa Bay Lightning's Vincent Lecavalier during the first period of NHL play in Montreal, March 17 , 2011. Lecavalier was given a five-minute penalty for slashing and a game misconduct on the play REUTERS/Shaun Best


So it seems P.K. Subban's a faker, and that teammate Max Pacioretty is undergoing a similar trial by raised eyebrow (to steal a line from our friend Mike Farber at Sports Illustrated).

Ain't the Internet grand?

Far be it from us to indulge the imbeciles and whackos who perpetrate the guff about Pacioretty, in particular, but there seems to be a broader question worth asking: are the Canadiens the most widely-detested team in the league?

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Subban, who took a vicious slash from Vincent Lecavalier on Thursday, is undoubtedly one of the most hated players in the league. On that sequence he gave as good as he got until Lecavalier snapped and lost it - close, obsessive watching of the replays, an occupational hazard within the Montreal sports reporting community these days, suggests the heel of Vinnie's stick may have glanced off Subban's forearm before hitting the top of his thigh.

Either way, it had to hurt like hell - Vinnie was swinging for the fences.

Now, the Habs have never been beloved by neutrals and opposing fans and players, a mixture of championship success and massive popular appeal makes it hard to maintain an underdog's charm. Ask the New York Yankees.

But to accuse a guy of embellishing and exaggerating the effects of a two-handed, hewer-of-wood slash, as Lecavalier seemingly did here.

Why is it that there's always such a willingness to blame the victim in the NHL?

And now it seems some quarters of the Interwebs are all a-froth over the fact Pacioretty should be cleared to start light training next week and could possibly make a return during the playoffs.

La Presse's Mathias Brunet raises an interesting question in his blog about the extent to which those in the NHL who feel considerable antipathy towards the Canadiens (hi Mr. Cherry!) will be disposed to accusing the team of crying wolf. Given the churlishness surrounding the Chara/Pacioretty situation within the old-school hockey ranks, it wouldn't be a surprise (anyone notice how all of a sudden the NHL's usual proxies started hammering Geoff Molson after his letter to fans, the same way they did when Mario Lemieux spoke out earlier this year? Remember when grown-ups used to disagree honourably, face-to-face? Us either.) Those of you who read French and haven't seen what Colin Campbell told Richard Labbé of La Presse will want to have a read of this.

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Coles' Notes version: Campbell doesn't bother to hide his contempt for Montreal's fans and media, and raises Pacioretty's dirty hit on the Islanders' Mark Eaton from earlier this year to point out he's no angel. Classy.

Now, a few thoughts regarding Pacioretty.

He's not fine, just lucky.

Pacioretty's still wearing a neck brace, and despite his good spirits and apparent jocularity, this is a bad and scary injury - as several teammates said privately, he was clearly shaken by this and likely won't be back to anything close to his best for a good wee while.

So those who are tempted to wink knowingly and adopt a sneering tone should wait and see what actually happens.

It's also worth pointing out there is a precedent for NHLers returning relatively quickly from this type of calamity.

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Pacioretty sustained a non-displaced fracture to his fourth neck vertebra (in essence a crack in the bone), and a severe concussion, which appears not to have resulted in any of the usual post-concussion symptoms.

Carolina's Erik Cole suffered a similar - though not identical - injury late in the 2005-06 season and returned in time to hoist the Stanley Cup.

Cole sustained a compression fracture to his fifth cervical vertebra on Mar. 4, 2006 after being driven into the boards by Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik, started working out on the stationary bike and in the pool three weeks or so later, and was in game action during the Stanley Cup final in early June.

Former Hab Brian Savage suffered multiple neck fractures in a 1999 game in Los Angeles, and was back on the ice four months later.

Will Max be back? Possibly, but it won't have to do with any conspiracy aimed at the Bruins, just amazing good fortune and a remarkably strong neck.

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