Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau came back to his hometown this week to the usual media explosion that greets his team and was left scratching his head about things from the fuss over Sidney Crosby's concussion to the success the Toronto Maple Leafs enjoy over the Caps.
Much of the controversy over Crosby stemmed from a hit made by Capitals forward David Steckel on the Pittsburgh Penguins star in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Crosby did not experience concussion symptoms for a few days and played again Jan. 5 when he was driven head-first into the boards by Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman. Crosby has not played since due to a concussion and his agent, Pat Brisson, said he believes the concussion was the result of the first hit.
Boudreau thinks the only reason the controversy was slow to die down is because Crosby was the victim. While Steckel and the Caps maintain the hit was accidental, Brisson and Crosby, who was angry the NHL did not suspend either Steckel or Hedman, maintain the league needs to rewrite its new rule against blindside head shots to punish accidental hits as well, just as accidental hits with a high stick are penalized.
"As far as over-reaction, if it was reversed and Sidney happened to hit David Steckel and he didn't see him, nobody would be saying a word," Boudreau said in a conference call on Friday. "It's because it's Sidney Crosby, quite frankly.
"It was an accident. Steckel is 6-foot-5, and Crosby is 5-foot-11 and your shoulder is going to meet the head when [there is a size difference]"
After the morning skate on Saturday, Steckel said once more that he did not hit Crosby intentionally.
"Everybody has an opinion," Steckel told Hockey Night In Canada. "I can't control that. I know it was incidental contact.
"It wasn't intentional. I was heading back up the ice."
In two games this season in Washington, the Leafs staged third-period comebacks to force overtime and take three of a possible four points. The first time, the Leafs lost 5-4 in a shootout and the second time they won the shootout by the same score.
"They are a Jekyll-and-Hyde team," Boudreau said Saturday of the Leafs, a few hours before the Capitals played them at the Air Canada Centre. "When they're on, they are as good as anybody. When they're off, they're as bad as anybody.
"We always get the good team."