Derick Brassard reached for a pass, casually, on the power play. He didn't move his feet, he didn't chase the puck. He watched as the puck hit the wall beside him and watched as the Devils went the other way.
The Penguins' power play had a rough night in general, but that felt like the low point for the crowd as they booed what was seen. And then I heard what felt like the low point in Brassard's time in Pittsburgh.
The first fan, seated near me, yelled out, "Why are you still a Penguin?"
Another belted, "Because no one else wants him!"
The criticism might be a little unfair. I've defended Brassard to an extent because it's clear that the cast around him doesn't fit his style of play. It's also clear he just doesn't work in the system.
But, after that moment, Brassard was good. He scored in the second. He was physical. He was flying, he was confident. It was a different look for Brassard, because ... well, those criticisms are well documented.
It didn't stop the criticisms from the fans, though. Needing goals, many of them, to attempt a comeback, Brassard found the puck, had a lane in the slot, chose to deke the Devils in his way and was removed of the puck before getting a chance to fire off a shot. (The image at the top of the article is Brassard deking before losing the puck there.)
More criticisms rained down, a few I can't repeat here. That's when I realized that it wasn't just the echo chamber of Twitter, Facebook comments or our very own comment section here on the site. Pittsburgh has legitimately grown to dislike Brassard, and it was expressed in a multitude of vocal ways throughout the arena and throughout the game.
Brassard was booed by the fans until they found a way to express hatred for a greater evil — the refs.
[caption id="attachment_767345" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Derick Brassard pleas his case while being sent to the locker room with a five minute major and a game misconduct. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
Brassard went to the box arguing against his sins. The fans were on his side this time. He was called for elbowing, but it surely wasn't an elbow that landed him there. It was, however, a pretty brutal hit from behind and into the boards on Sami Vatanen that sent the Devil crumpled to the ice with his face in his hands.
Brassard was corralled in the corner of the zone and Vatanen climbed to his knees. That's the first time I saw the evidence that helped Brassard go from arguing near the penalty box to watching the rest of the game from the locker room. Vatanen's jersey had quite a bit more red than normal, dropped his red glove and headed to the bench.
He was met by a Devils trainer on the ice and headed to the locker room where he received stitches to seal the wound that Brassard and the boards combined to create.
After the game, Devils coach John Hynes briefed the media and informed that he and the staff saw Vatanen, he received stitches and "he should be good."
That's always good to hear, but this was the scene in front of my shooting hole that worried me it wouldn't be the case:
As always, the rest of the game's action can be seen below:
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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