Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Did Brandon Prust Take a Dive? What If Prust Had Been the Puncher?

Last night at 15:27 of the second period Jordan Staal sucker punched Brandon Prust with a left hand to the jaw that sent Prust to the ice.  The play resulted in Staal getting hit with a five minute major and a match penalty.  Those events are not really up for debate.  The interpretation of those events certainly seems to be in the aftermath of the action.

Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy had the fallout the action.

“The majority opinion is that Prust should have at least been given an Emmy nomination for his performance.”

Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote: "Brandon Prust looked like Glass Joe after taking that punch from Staal. Nice sell job."

On the Rangers side Andrew Gross at Ranger Rants had Prust take on the incident
"It was kind of surprising, it happened quick, he caught me on the sweet spot, i got my bell run," said Prust, who sat out the rest of the second period but played in the third. "It was just more the surprise. I told Rammer (trainer Jim Ramsey) I was ready to go. They checked me over. I think it was all a reaction (by Jordan Staal). I came in and hit a guy (Tyler Kennedy) and he came in and stuck up for him. He threw a punch. I agree with the call (a five-minute match penalty for intent to injure and a game misconduct). Stuff happens on the ice. I'm happy he did, we got a five-minute penalty. Thank you."

Regardless of whether one thinks that Prust embellished the outcome of the punch, it is still a sucker punch since it was clearly an unsuspecting opponent. The fact that Staal was thrown out for "intent to injure" makes whether Prust embellished, took a dive or anything else technically irrelvant to the outcome.  I am sure there are many who will argue that it was only called "intent to injure" because of how Prust went down, but I can only deal with what was called.

The reason Staal was tossed is that he broke Rule 21.1
A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.
I am not saying he intended to injure him, but that is what the referees called him for.  So, what does it all mean?

I am on record last night as saying that I thought Prust embellished the result of the punch from Staal, but based on the call by the refs that does not matter to what happened to Staal.  Yes, I am sure it still matters to many whether or not he embellished in terms of their thoughts on the play, so I stand by my belief that he sold it to some extent.  

I can understand people who do not follow the Rangers having a tough time reconciling how Prust can go toe-to-toe with Deryk Engelland, one of the game’s biggest punchers, without going down and then get dropped by what did not even appear to be a vicious punch by Staal.  The problem with that from my perspective is it disregards the element of surprise and the positioning of the punch, which is what Prust was referring to in his comments.  There is also a long reach for me between embellishing a call and being a diver and I will never believe watching as hard and tough as Brandon Prust plays for this team that he is a diver. 

I do not believe that Staal had malicious intent on the play, nor do I think anyone should think he is a dirty player because he clearly has no record of being one, but it is still a clear violation of the rules that got an appropriate penalty.  What will likely happen is the NHL will rescind the match penalty so they do not have to enforce the mandatory one game suspension.  If the NHL does rescind the match penalty what will likely happen is those who believe Prust took a dive will feel vindicated in their beliefs instead of realizing that it was the squeaky clean record that got him a lighter punishment.

I am left to sit here and wonder what the word around the league would be if the roles were reversed and Prust had been the puncher and Staal the one who ended up falling to the ice.  Somehow I do not buy the notion that there would be calls to rescind the match penalty and calling Staal a diver because it would have been a fighter throwing the punch. Fans in Pittsburgh would be looking for the book to be thrown at Prust, and fans in New York would likely be defending him.  

Hit me with your take.