The first period of Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning included a scary incident and everyone who witnessed it couldn't utter a word for a moment.
Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly laid down to block a shot early in the do-or-die Eastern Conference Final contest and took a shot from Ryan McDonagh to the back of the neck. He went on to grab the back of his head in pain, and waited for trainers to come and help him off the ice. He exited to the dressing room while many people wondered if he would return.
And he did.
During the first intermission, host of Coach's Corner on CBC Don Cherry applauded DSP's hockey fundamentals in the spur of the moment.
“Watch him turn his head kids,” Don Cherry said during his Coach’s Corner segment on Wednesday night. “[If] he doesn’t turn his head, you know where he gets this one. Right on the chin.”
“Remember, if you have to block shots — the most dangerous thing in hockey — you turn your head.”
However, his co-host Ron MacLean spoke of a similar injury that happened to New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello three years ago. And let's just say, Zuccarello ended up in way worse shape than DSP appears to be...
Back in 2015, during a playoff game between the Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Zuccarello took a slapshot to the helmet that would sideline him with the most devastating injury of his career: a brain contusion and a fractured skull. He even lost the ability to speak and had to enter speech therapy to learn how to talk again.
“My Norwegian is almost perfect, I would say, except a few times,” Zuccarello had told The Guardian back in November of 2015. “My English is a bit different, but I’ll have to live with that. It’s fine.”
We understand how Smith-Pelly wanted to get back as quickly as possible to help his team win Game 7 and get their ticket to the Stanley Cup final. However, MacLean brought it a good - and very alarming - point. What if the injury - a very heroic move on DSP's part - turns out to be worse than it is now?