Musick: Torres isn’t worth retaliation

Caption
The Blackhawks' Marian Hossa leaves the game April 17 after a hit from the Phoenix Coyotes' Raffi Torres during the first period of Game 3 of their first-round playoff series at the United Center. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Raffi Torres is dirtier than a gardener’s fingernails.

Raffi Torres is uglier than an oil spill.

Raffi Torres is slimier than spoiled meat.

There. I feel better.

Maybe the Blackhawks should try this exercise before today’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Quick, someone give Dave Bolland a pen and a piece of paper.

When the puck drops at Phoenix’s Jobing.com Arena, the Hawks will be tempted to drop Torres. Although it’s much easier said than done, they’ll have to resist those temptations.

Now is not the time for the league’s best team to succumb to distractions.

Keep your composure. Keep looking forward.

Most importantly, keep winning.

It’s hard to believe, but almost 10 months have passed since the last time the Hawks faced the most pathetic player in the NHL. The Hawks were hosting the Coyotes in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals April 17 when Torres skated away from the puck, leaped off of the ice and drove his left shoulder into the side of Marian Hossa’s head with a devastating and illegal hit.

A hush fell over the United Center as a half-dozen emergency medical personnel huddled near Hossa. The star forward remained motionless as he was strapped to a backboard and wheeled off the ice on a stretcher. One strap covered the top of his helmet. Two straps covered the Hawks’ logo on his red sweater. Two straps covered his black shorts.

Hossa was loaded into an ambulance and rushed to a nearby hospital. The hit had knocked him out cold, but he was released from the hospital later in the evening to begin a long recovery from a concussion.

If the hit had occurred outside the building, Torres probably would have ended up in a holding cell at 26th and California. But it happened on the ice, and Torres predictably fell to his knees and turtled when Hawks enforcer Brandon Bollig went after him at the opposite end of the rink.

After all, Torres is not one to engage in a fair fight. He prefers to take cheap shots and skate away.

The NHL’s penalty was harsh for the journeyman goon, who qualified as a repeat offender under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Torres was suspended for 25 games including the playoffs – later, his penalty was reduced to 21 games overall – and he did not return to the ice until Saturday.

Since then, Torres has reminded everyone of his abilities with zero goals and zero assists in two games. He logged 17 shifts against the Dallas Stars and 12 shifts against the Minnesota Wild.

Given last year’s playoff series, perhaps it’s appropriate that today marks Game 3 for Torres.

But the Hawks have too much going for them to worry about a clown on skates. Winning the game and earning two points in the standings is more important than seeking revenge.

At 8-0-2, the Hawks have the best record in the league. Most of that success has come on the road, where the Hawks have won in hostile environments such as Los Angeles, Vancouver and San Jose.

A shortened 48-game season makes each of those wins even more valuable.

Expect another crowded playoff race this spring as teams compete for home-ice advantage in the hard-fought Western Conference. Last season, only 10 points separated the five best teams.

Whether the Hawks earn two points, one point or zero points today could loom large in April. The difference could separate a No. 1 seed from a No. 2 seed, or a No. 3 from a No. 4, or … you get the idea.

That’s why, today, the Hawks should focus on the puck rather than the punk.

If Torres happens to have the puck along the boards or across the ice and a Hawks player is nearby, by all means, crunch him like an aluminum can. The same goes for any skater on the Coyotes’ roster.

But only special players deserve special attention.

Torres is far from special.

• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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