Florida Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas is having himself a very good season, leading the league in hits thus far and has been successful at doing so while maintaining a relatively clean record with just 21 penalty minutes accumulated thus far on the season.
On Saturday night the Chicago Blackhawks learned the hard way about the effectiveness of Gudas' physical playing style and it may in fact have proven to be the catalyst for a key turning point in the game for the Panthers.
The Panthers were down a goal in the 2nd period when Gudas suddenly sparked some life back into the team with a bone crunching hit on the Blackhawks' Carl Soderberg. Gudas caught Soderberg skating up the neutral zone and made it seem like the National Hockey League veteran had just run into a brick wall, one with a ton of momentum behind it. The impact of Gudas' thunderous hit sent Soderberg sailing through the air as he landed hard on the ice, and meanwhile Gudas acted like he had barely noticed the contact at all.
The hit had an immediate impact on Soderberg who was very slow to get up and who slowly skated back to the Chicago Blackhawks bench for a change, and you could easily argue that it had an immediate impact on the Panthers as well. Following the spark from Gudas the Panthers would rattle off 3 unanswered goals in the 2nd period to take a commanding lead, and they would even go on to add a 4th unanswered goal in the game's third period.
Now I certainly don't want to be critical of Soderberg here as there is of course a very good reason as to why he may have been caught so off guard by this hit. As many of you know he suffered a horrible injury when he was just a 21 year old hockey player in Sweden, one that left him with a detached retina in his left eye and has made him legally blind on that side.
There's a very real chance that Soderberg genuinely had no chance to see Gudas coming, but it was a beautiful hit nonetheless.