Hradek: Eberle, Hartnell, Howard first-half surprises

Tuesday, 01.10.2012 By E.J.Hradek

While the Bruins and their fans will disagree, I feel Brendan Shanahan knocked it out of the park in slapping Brad Marchand with a five-game suspension for his low-bridge hit on Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo, who suffered a concussion as a result of the dangerous play.

Shanahan's video explanation of his rational was compelling and crystal clear. I thought it was particularly enlightening to view the play in its entire context. Just 16 seconds earlier in the shift, Marchand and Salo came together in nearly identical fashion. In that earlier instance, Marchand took a different approach, opting for a straight shoulder-to-shoulder hit with the bigger Salo.

In the second go-round, I believe Marchand made a calculated decision to go low on Salo, who didn't have the puck and had no way to anticipate such a move. Certainly, I'm not buying the team's assertion that Marchand was defending himself. I mean, that was Salo moving slowly toward him, not Kevin Bieska.

Marchand brings a lot to the table. He has terrific speed, good hockey sense and a nice finishing touch around the net. As a rookie, he was a big part of the club's championship run. In this case, however, I think he stepped over the line.

In issuing the five-game ban, Shanahan is making a sharp statement that this type of play will not be tolerated. And it most certainly shouldn't be. The job of handing out supplementary discipline in the NHL is, at best, an inexact science. In this particular circumstance, the extra punishment definitely fit the crime.

And now, here's our regularly scheduled program …

With many of the teams having hit the half-way mark of the season, I thought I'd dedicate this week's edition of the Tuesday 10 to players who, for one reason or another, have impressed me (listed in alphabetical order) in the opening months of the season.

Michael Del Zotto, D, Rangers

After a strong rookie campaign as a 19-year-old in 2009-10, Del Zotto spent the second half of last season in the AHL. The No. 20 pick in the 2008 Draft, he seemed to have quickly fallen out of favor in New York. Entering training camp, Del Zotto wasn't assured a spot on the NHL roster.

A smooth-skating, puck-mover, the third-year defender regained the confidence of the coaching staff with a more focused approach. Along with Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, he became a go-to guy on a New York blue line that was without incumbent No. 1 defenseman Marc Staal.

Through 39 games, Del Zotto's plus-25 rating is tops among non-Bruins and he trails only Boston captain Zdeno Chara among all defensemen in that category. Averaging 22:48 of ice time per game, he is the club's fifth-leading scorer with 23 points.