More email...I know how you live for it. This came from a reader who took exception to my Don Cherry observation last week (quote from column below that the reader included):
"Don Cherry: When you incorrectly identify the players involved in a specific and controversial issue (namely Chris Neil and Sean Burke, as opposed to Chris Neil and Chris Dingman), something’s wrong. We’re not exactly arguing over semantics here. It’s one thing to stir up a discussion — it’s completely another to be unaware of the facts (and significant history) going in."
But, he was right on the button this time. How tough can a player be, pointing at a goalie and challenging him? Chris Neil is the epitome of one of the biggest NON tough guys of all time. No matter who Neil was pointing at, he still did the big bad turtle when it came time to answer the bell. Oh, for sure, maybe just maybe he wouldn't have turtled if Burke came after him, but that would be a typical Senator play, to beat up a goalie. (Ed. Note: Whaa?)
If you are going to threaten the other teams goalie, then you need to be man enough to answer the call when the inevitable challenge comes. All year, Neil hid behind McGrattan, and now that big bad Brian sits all the time, Neil resorts to the little turtle move. Ain't that just like a Senator?
I noticed more dives in game one by the Senators against Buffalo than I've seen in an Olympic diving event. (Ed. Note: Don't know what game he was watching.) Man, what the Sabres had to do to overcome the absolutely atrocious officiating to win that game was immense. Here's to Buffalo for showing more heart and desire than ANY of the Senators can muster up. (Ed Note: Like who? Fisher?) The Sens were basically handed this game on a silver platter, and STILL could not win. That's not a good sign. Don was on the ball this time. One of the few times Don is ever right.
Marcus Allen then responds:
Hi there -- thanks for writing.
You're entitled to your opinion regarding Chris Neil, and I'm not going to indicate whether or not I share it, because it's irrelevant in regards to the point I was making in the column.
Chris Neil pointed at Sean Burke, and not Chris Dingman. The reason being that he has a history with Burke that dates back to the infamous Philly-Ottawa brawl. Cherry did not reference Sean Burke at all, and indicated that Neil was pointing at Dingman, who wasn't even on the ice at the time. That's all I was stating in the column. Nothing more, nothing less. Don was wrong because he identified the wrong player.
As for the rest of it...
Of course Neil turtled. Who's going to deny that? There was no need for him to fight, code be damned. The score was 5-2 in favour of Ottawa. There was a playoff game at stake. He obviously wasn't proud of what he did -- the _expression was all over his face. The camera was perpetually on him afterward, and he didn't smile once. In fact, he looked extremely embarrassed. But drawing those seven minutes in penalties was the difference in that game, because it completely destroyed any momentum that the Lightning were building at the time (and they were -- Ottawa was on their heels). He played the role of pest. He turtled. He took one for the team and it paid off. Scoreboard.
As for Brian McGrattan currently being a healthy scratch -- the last time I checked, fighting was a rarity in the playoffs and generally remains highly discouraged at this time of year. Neil had 33 points in the regular season. McGrattan had 5.
Those are the facts. Anything else boils down to subjective opinion. Thanks again for writing and take care.
P.S. I can't remember any specific examples of "typical Senators play" in which an Ottawa player "beat up" a goalie. If you can, feel free to remind me because it must be an aberration. But "typical" suggests this would be a regular occurrence, and if I can't remember any player-goalie brawls taking place, then something must be wrong with my memory. If there was any goalie involvement whatsoever, it would certainly only involve the backstoppers themselves, as that it is the norm. Ray Emery can more than hold his own (as demonstrated by his AHL history), and he has yet to fight thus far.