Bruins notebook: Taylor Hall discusses hit on Nathan MacKinnon, decision to not fight

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The Skate Podcast
The Skate Pod, Ep. 78: Bruins' loss to Avs, Taylor Hall's hit, Tuukka Rask's struggles
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The Avalanche wanted Taylor Hall to “answer” for his hit that knocked Nathan MacKinnon out of Wednesday’s game, despite the fact that the hit was clean.

Hall declined offers to fight from both Gabriel Landeskog and Kurtis MacDermid and had a target on his back the rest of the night -- quite literally in the case of Erik Johnson, who crosschecked him three time to give the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play.

Meeting with the media via Zoom on Friday, Hall explained that he didn’t feel the need to drop the gloves because it was a clean hit, but also wondered if maybe he should’ve just fought and gotten it over with.

“Yeah, in the moment, that was my thinking,” Hall said. “If I could get one or two power plays out of them, I thought that would help our team more than me fighting. But I guess looking back, maybe initially I just drop the gloves with Landeskog and get it over with, and then I’m able to kind of play the rest of the game without as big of a target on my back.

“I don’t know, it’s hockey. Someone told me one time, ‘You never fight on someone else’s terms.’ I’m not a fighter by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t know, it was a clean hit. It was a hockey hit. I never want to see anyone leave the game. Certainly my intention was just to end the play when he had the puck there. I didn’t want to see him bloodied or anything like that. It was a little bit of a stressful night for the rest of the game there. Just a weird night overall.”

MacKinnon will miss at least three more games with a facial fracture and a concussion. The injuries came as a result of MacKinnon’s own stick recoiling into his face when Hall hit him.

-- Bruce Cassidy said that defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is “feeling better” and will be a game-time decision for Friday night’s game in Arizona. Grzelcyk has missed the last two games after suffering an upper-body injury on Saturday when Winnipeg’s Pierre-Luc Dubois hit him from behind.

Cassidy did not say which defenseman would come out of the lineup if Grzelcyk does return. While it might seem like Urho Vaakanainen would be the natural choice, he has played well recently, and he’s played a lot. Vaakanainen has played the second-most minutes on the team over the last eight games, with his 21:09 per game ranking behind only Charlie McAvoy.

Cassidy said there are no changes to his forward lines.

-- Linus Ullmark will start in goal Friday, as the Bruins will go right back to him after a strong outing Wednesday in Colorado.

While it would be hard to argue that Ullmark didn’t earn another start, it’s still an interesting decision. A matchup with the second-worst team in the NHL would have seemed like a good opportunity to get Tuukka Rask into a bounce-back spot after his tough outing on Monday, when he gave up five goals in a loss to Anaheim. We would expect Rask to start Sunday in Dallas, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.

(UPDATE: Rask is reportedly dealing with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.)

Cassidy again preached patience regarding Rask, saying that they intend to “see it through” and have no plans to cut ties if Rask’s play doesn’t improve soon.

“I think we’re going to see it through,” Cassidy said. “He could have a change of heart in that regard. We won’t control that. But we went into this with, he’s put the time into rehab, and we’ll give him X amount of starts to find his game. That’s a little tougher obviously in-season, but we were willing to do that because of his resume. We’re not there to the number of starts where we’re going to say, ‘OK, we have to rethink it.’

“He’s gonna get three or four more, minimum, and then let’s see where we’re at. Who gives us the best chance to win every night as we go down the stretch? And then sorting it out for April and May. I think [Jeremy] Swayman’s still involved in that, too. He’s playing well down in Providence, but we don’t want to carry three goalies here. So he gets his starts there, the other two get it here. As we go along, we’ll make the best decision, but it’s too soon to make any hard decision right now.”

-- Hall, who played in Arizona for half a season in 2019-20, weighed in on the reports that the Coyotes are in talks to make Arizona State’s 5,000-seat arena their temporary home until they’re able to build a new arena. The city of Glendale has told the Coyotes their Gila River Arena lease will not be renewed after this season.

Hall said he believes the NHL can still work in Arizona, which is something he may not have thought before he played there.

“My experience here was really good,” Hall said. “I was actually surprised by the fans and how much they cared about the team here. I played a lot of games in this arena, and I’ve seen how packed it can get and how the atmosphere can get. I know people probably think the visiting team brings a lot of fans, but there were a lot of nights where we’d be playing a Chicago or Minnesota, where there was a good chunk of away fans, but it was still a very good atmosphere.

“I met a lot of Coyotes fans just out in public, and they were very enthusiastic about the team. I think everyone agrees that an NHL-sized arena somewhere around Scottsdale would be best for everyone, but there’s a lot of politics involved and a lot of things that go into it. I wish nothing but the best for this franchise. I do think that hockey can work here. I probably didn’t think that before I played on the Coyotes, but I do think it after being a member of the team and seeing the area and seeing how much they care about sports here.”

Hall’s teammate, Brad Marchand, did not have quite as empathetic a take on the Coyotes’ situation.