While the Toronto Maple Leafs did not survive Game 7 in their first round series against the Boston Bruins, falling 7-4, they survived a big scare at the start of the contest. One that could have been costly for more than just the one crucial game.
Midway through the first period, Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly was forced to exit the game after being struck in the face by a puck. The play took place when Rielly found himself in front of a Zdeno Chara shot. The puck came and caught him straight under the visor, as Bruins' Brad Marchand bent down just in time to avoid it.
While the defender left the game to receive treatments, he was back on the bench for the start of the second though, wearing the aftermath of that Chara shot above his upper lip.
His decision to return to the contest makes sense on a competition level. It is Game 7, you want to be a difference maker - and there is no way you are missed out of the rest of the action, which could be (and was) your last of the season. Understood. However, one former player was quite upset to see that Rielly was back on the ice after getting a slap shot to the head and was quite vocal about it on social media.
Former Chicago Blackhawks gritty forward Daniel Carcillo has taken the NHL to task on concussions for the past few years now. In the last months, Carcillo has encouraged players through social media to stand up for themselves and “get educated” and to “know the risks of play hockey for a league that refuses to adequately care for humans.”
He did not hold back on Wednesday night in an Instagram post, following Rielly’s injury:
"This is what a #tbi traumatic brain injury looks like. Notice #morganreilly and how when the puck hits his upper lip, his arms give out and go straight, as well as taking a seat in the chair like a boxer or fighter being knocked the fuck out. Not to mention his feet sliding out from under him and to the side. I guess the #nhl high school coach spotters in the stands missed this one. I don’t know how. Once again, the @nhlpa is no where to be found when players need them to protect their future interests. Let me speak from experience. When you are playing in a #stanleycup #nhlplayoffs game 7 match, it is near impossible to convince a player to call it quits and not put himself back in harms way and risk the aftermath of receiving multiple head traumas in the same game. Solution? Don’t give the athlete the choice.”
This morning, Carcillo kept talking about the bad decision that was taken in this situation last night, and encouraged Rielly to contact him.
We understand that telling Rielly to sit out the rest of the game wouldn’t have been appreciated by the blue liner. However, playing the rest of the contest may or may not have huge consequences in the future…
Carcillo has been quite vocal about depression in link with post-concussion symptoms. He lost his dear friend and former teammate Steve Montador, who died in his home in 2015, as he suffered from the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.