Dixon: Maxim Lapierre does his best to distract Bruins in Stanley Cup final

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

For all the Maxim Lapierre haters out there right now, it’s genuinely surprising Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi are both fans. What else can you conclude from them adopting Lapierre’s Game 2 finger taunt to Patrice Bergeron and incorporating it into their own arsenal of shenanigans in Game 3?

Imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery, right?

The supreme irony with the vitriol that seems to flow from Lapierre’s actions is that the guys who want to lose their mind on him are also his biggest enablers. Lapierre’s antics are akin to a child throwing a tantrum; it’s only effective if you pay attention.

But the Bruins and countless other clubs haven’t been able to help themselves, which in truth is a credit to Lapierre’s antagonistic aptitude. We all know the ability to agitate is something that’s valued in hockey, provided the player can stay on the right side of the ledger when it comes to penalties drawn versus penalties taken.

When Lapierre is a plus player in that category, he’s doing something more for his team than his third-liner skill set would otherwise allow him to. Not everybody can be a fastball pitcher; some guys have to throw junk to stay in the big leagues and Lapierre has recognized his ability to burrow under people’s skin has made him less interchangeable with other middle-of-the-road talents. That’s not to say there’s a limit to where the lunacy can carry you, but we’ll get to that later.

Those who dislike Lapierre on the basis he’s a dirty player should note he’s been suspended just once in his NHL career, which is two fewer times than that, ahem, cheapshot artist Danny Briere. Lapierre gets away with stuff left and right, you say? Really? Don’t you think he’s got a whale-sized target on his back in the eyes of the NHL justice department by now?

Those who dislike Lapierre because he’s a diver should remove whatever team-themed colored glasses they’re wearing and realize a fundamental fact of hockey; every team employs players who dive. That doesn’t make it right, but it does make it common.

Lapierre’s approach while the play is going on isn’t radically different than a lot of other NHLers out there. Someday, he’ll have to realize the post-whistle stuff reaches a saturation point, which, as Bruins coach Claude Julien pointed out, is at least likely part of the reason Lapierre has played for three teams this year. There will come a time when he’ll either have to reel it in or run the risk of becoming completely irrelevant.

But right now, Boston players are wagging fingers instead of turning cheeks. That’s rooted in a flawed maxim and it means Lapierre won’t change a thing.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays.

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