‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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From the moment that Brian Boyle roughed-up Erik Karlsson in Game 1, he’s been a ‘marked man’ by a Senators team out for vengeance.

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If Matt Carkner targeted Boyle with the intent of injuring him in Game 2, Chris Neil certainly ‘finished the job’ on Boyle in Game 5.  Boyle was left concussed after Neil delivered a blow to Boyle’s head during the third period.

Though he would take three more shifts after the hit, Boyle was not made available to the media following the Rangers’ 2-0 Game 5 defeat.

Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella confirmed during Saturday’s post-game press conference that Boyle is “concussed” and “out.”

When asked about Neil’s hit on Boyle, Tortorella directly compared it to Raffi Torres’ head-shot on Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks.  The Coyotes’ enforcer was handed a 25-game suspension that will also see him miss the entire slate of 2012 pre-season games.

“Well, they have the blueprint.  It’s probably the same exact hit as Torres.  Different part of the ice, launches himself, head shot.  The pucks at the goal line when he’s hit.  So, the blue print’s there.  I’m sure he’s a repeat offender, too.  Not too much research to be done there,” Tortorella detailed.

Tortorella continued, “There’s a blueprint. I’m not trying to be something smart. It’s just a dangerous, dangerous, cheap hit. It’s the exact same play as Torres.”

Listen to Tortorella’s thoughts on the Neil hit and other topics during his post-game press conference:

It should be pointed out that Tortorella was incorrect about Neil being a ‘repeat offender.’  Neil has never been suspended by the NHL and his most recent punishment by the league was a $1,000 fine he received in 2003.

Nor did Neil launch himself in the fashion that Torres did on Hossa.  His feet did not leave the ice.  Still, the overwhelming feeling is that Neil had the opportunity to avoid Boyle but continued his progress and targeted Boyle’s head with intent.

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When questioned about the hit in the Senators’ locker room, Neil gave a very different account to the media.

He spoke to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo following Game 5.  “I think it’s a clean hit.  Obviously, you don’t like to see the suspensions. If it’s a dirty one, then yeah. You have to be held accountable for it,” Neil mentioned.

Neil spoke in detail to Sean Gordon of the Toronto Globe and Mail.

“He’s cutting across the middle with his head down, obviously I’m putting back pressure and trying to bust back and get in good position and I’m a physical player out there, I think it’s a clean hit,” Neil said.

“Obviously he was slow getting up, but I think it probably just knocked the wind out of him, I caught him right in the chest. He’s a big man, it takes a lot out of me giving those hits too,” Neil stated.

It’s obvious that Boyle has been the target of the Senators all series.  Neil knew what he was doing when he shouldered Boyle’s head.  He’s a 10-year veteran and an expert at delivering a history of solid, clean checks.  This isn’t a rookie like Carl Hagelin who made a mistake he deeply regretted when he elbowed Daniel Alfredsson.

Neil made a premeditated effort to go over the line and that’s exactly what he did.  No one is believing Neil’s story that he “caught him right in the chest” and “probably just got the wind knocked out of him.”  Come on now, only child would believe such a tale.

While the hit wasn’t delivered with the savagery of Torres, it should certainly earn a suspension in greater length than the three game ban Hagelin received.

Win or lose, Rangers fans can be proud that their team doesn’t stoop to the level of the Senators.  They’ve prided themselves on playing the hockey ‘the right way’ and even printed locker room playoff t-shirts bearing the motto.

I would be shocked if any Ranger took a run at a Senator in retaliation for Neil’s hit.  They simply don’t play hockey that way.

First round exit or deep playoff run, New Yorkers are proud of their Rangers.

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Did Neil go over the line with his hit on Boyle?  Should he receive a long-term suspension?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.