Fraser: Thoughts on Eager's actions against the Canucks

Kerry Fraser
5/19/2011 6:39:06 PM
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Hi Kerry,
I'm very interested to hear your take on Ben Eager's actions after the Bieksa vs. Marleau fight when he went straight out and hit Daniel Sedin from behind. Was there not enough evidence there for a major? Should the obvious pre-meditation witnessed live by Kris king and Colin Campbell be enough to mean a deserved suspension?
What about the Eager goal? He makes contacts with the Luongo, kicks his leg and then the puck goes into the net, why was that a good goal?
Doug Robichaud in New Brunswick

Hi Doug:

You are just one of many that wanted to know about Ben Eager's robust style of play in Game 2. I don't know what his playing minutes were on Wednesday but I can't seem to recall seeing so much of him in a previous game or series. The Bieksa-Marleau fight seemed to be the cause for the release of "Not So Gentle" Ben's seat belt on the San Jose bench.

Let's look at the whole situation and how this developed. Marleau and Bieksa were working each other over pretty good with their sticks prior to dropping the gauntlet. I give Patrick Marleau full marks for standing in there toe-to-toe with a much more experienced and superior opponent in Kevin Bieksa. Had I been the back referee on the play I would have attempted to prevent the fight by blowing the whistle when both players were tenderizing each other with their sticks and with the linesman, quickly gotten between them before the gloves came off, if at all possible. It appeared as though the whistle blew when the fight actually began. The reason I would try to prevent it is because of the mismatch in pugilistic ability between the two. In the end Marleau excited his bench and Kevin Bieksa did what everyone would have expected; he won the fight.

In the process the fight scorecard charged up Ben Eager. His quick response in hitting Daniel Sedin was avoidable due to the sufficient separation between the two when Sedin turned toward the boards to play the puck. This separation created time for Eager to alter his path and not strike Sedin into the boards from behind; certainly not to the degree that he did. Given the dynamics of the play and the impact to the boards, a major penalty for boarding was warranted at a minimum. You could also support a Check From Behind which would have resulted in a game misconduct in addition to the five-minute major penalty even though Sedin did turn his body toward the boards. His body turn was to play the puck and not an intentional action to draw a penalty by creating this contact.

There was a great deal of negative energy when Eager was on the ice and his leg swoop trip, for which he was penalized, was just one example. I am not suggesting that Eager should play soft; that is not his style. It is the referee's job, however, to identify players that run around and cross the line thereby putting the safety of others at risk. Ben crossed the line last night but I didn't believe that any supplemental discipline would result from the hit - and ultimately none was assessed.

On the goal it was a "bang-bang" play at the crease. The puck arrived in the goal crease almost simultaneously with Eager and I doubt that many (if any) referees would have ruled that this was anything but a good "hockey goal" (almost the same as a "good hockey play"). I don't have a problem with that. The goal certainly didn't affect the outcome of the game one way or the other.

What should have been done, however, was to remove Eager from the game with a 10-minute misconduct for trash talking/inciting Roberto Luongo while standing over top of the Vancouver goalkeeper as he lay deep inside the net after San Jose's last goal.
With two minutes and 30 seconds remaining, I don't think Eager was going to tie the game or win it. All he was going to do was cause additional trouble. A minor penalty for roughing makes no sense based on what took place in the crease and the game dynamics. The temperature needed to be brought down and there was only one hotspot; that was Ben Eager. The referees would have been well advised (and supported by the rules) to send Eager to the showers at that point. Call it a police keeping mission if you like; I call it common sense.

Stay tuned because this series is heating up and San Jose is the toughest building for a visiting team to play in.

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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