Victory wasn’t the only thing the Toronto Maple Leafs tasted when they visited the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. A momentous win for the Leafs and their organisation was directly shrouded by a number of late game incidents which left the team with a serious hit to their reputation. In one of the most complete and dominant efforts the Leafs have compiled in years, starting from the goaltender upwards, it was disappointing that the game would have such a large footnote.
While there are a couple of incidents to speak of, the biggest came in a scrum in the third period. This was when Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski decided to coral his inner toddler and bite Habs forward Max Pacioretty. The later lost his cool, attempting to shake the grasp of the referee in order to get a shot in at the Belarusian forward before repeatedly showing the referee his arm, on which a red mark was clearly visible. Replays showed the Grabovski fairly clearly chomping down on Pacioretty’s arm.
This is certainly not the NHL’s first biting incident, the most famous of which in recent memory involving Canucks forward Alex Burrows in the Stanley Cup finals against Patrice Bergeron. If you don’t remember, just ask Max Lapierre, he seems to have quite the recollection of the incident. Bergeron’s hand entered the mouth of Burrow’s, who decided for some reason that Bergeron was trying to pull out his teeth and bit him. Burrows received no suspension on the play.
The Grabovski incident was similarly a classless act, but it could be said that his was even worse than the despicable play that still haunts Burrows. The Burrows bite was through the glove of the Bruins player, and while Bergeron did show the officials his finger there was no obvious mark on it. Even on a tube TV you could see the welt on Max Pacioretty’s arm as Grabovski was able to get his exposed flesh. Bruins and Habs fans rarely agree on anything, but both understand biting has no place in hockey and should constitute a lengthy suspension.
So what kind of discipline will Grabovski receive? It remains to be seen. However, if he gets what he deserves for this incident it should be between 8 and 10 games. This is a very harsh sentence in a shortened season but it makes a point to all players that biting is absolutely unacceptable in the sport of hockey. Will he get that sort of suspension? Most likely not. It would be a bold statement from the NHL to say the least, but one that is necessary.
From the Leafs camp their are several arguments as to what really happened on the incident. The first of which is similar to what Burrows argued during his incident, that the arm/finger was played in/in front of the face. But for Grabovski the arm was not actually in his mouth, while it certainly was in the Burrows incident, not that this is defending Burrows in any form. They will also say that the marks on Pacioretty were from Grabovski’s nails. But as a grown man should be smart enough not to bite someone he should also have the intelligence to recognize when he has been bitten.
Mikhail Grabovski should be ashamed of himself. When even young children look at the incident and describe it as “immature” it is apparent there is something seriously wrong with the picture.