Leo Komarov made a joke during the World Championships in Russia when he was put on a top scoring line. He said something about how he was there to score goals this time, so he would behave. And he did for the most part.
But for the World Cup of Hockey, he has been on the third or fourth line by ice time, and most of the time his job is to be a pest.
Leo Komarov has had his face or rear end in Lundqvist's line of sight when the whistle goes in the Swedish crease.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) 20 September 2016
He started that routine in Helsinki in the first exhibition game with Sweden, he continued in the second, and to some degree, him being that sort of irritant is effective. Or seems to be. If you can make someone angry enough to take a penalty or to get distracted, it's valuable. It was reported that the Swedes were just laughing at him.
Victor Hedman's not laughing.
It's not that the hit is really bad, or that Hedman looked shaken up for a few minutes after that's the problem. It's that it's a very risky move and a stupid one. He could have caused greater harm both to Hedman and his own team.
The hit came with five minutes left to play in Finland's must-win game over Sweden with the Swedes leading 1-0 and not making a lot of effort to pad that lead.
Luckily for Komarov, they didn't make any more effort during the power play, and Hedman came back on the ice and looked fine. The Swedes won the game in a clinical and fairly unemotional way. The Finns gave up two minutes of their five remaining in which to tie it up, and that is why that sort of grit might be useful, but it is a tool that needs to be wielded wisely.
Too often, Komarov is anything but. And he is dangerous.
Ref cam view of the Komarov hit on Ekblad. pic.twitter.com/Sa1VHnDFyg— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) 20 September 2016
Everyone on the ice in a hockey game is dangerous; it is the nature of the game. The question everyone should ask is how dangerous? How much risk is it okay for a player to take with another's safety?
Aaron Ekblad is reported to be out of the tournament and returning to Florida, with what has been called a concussion. The injury has also been called a neck injury. Perhaps that confusion is the delay in the Panthers' doctors getting a chance to look at Ekblad personally.
Komarov is the kind of guy who won't back down from huge opponents like Zdeno Chara, Colton Parayko, as in the picture above, or Victor Hedman. His toughness and willingness to play hard all the time are why he is a useful player beyond his goal scoring.
In today's game against Sweden, Finland needed something. They needed a spark of life, something to get them going, and while Komarov might have thought he was providing it, he would have been better off to keep farting in Henrik Lundqvist's face. As a tactic, it had a greater chance of success.