Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org!
A number of things happened in games during the weekend that stimulated questions. Let me provide you with my take on a few of them.
1) First Adam asks, "Please explain to me the difference between the stick fouls in the third period of the Rangers/Capitals game on Saturday. Ovechkin gave Boyle a shot to the stick where no penalty was called and Hagelin gave a shot to Carlson that was called... I mean, both plays looked identical to me and a penalty was called on one and not one the other. I'm an unabashed Rangers fan, but both plays looked so similar that it's hard to believe that one was called an not another. Thanks for your time."
Adam, I saw the same two plays live and I have to agree with you that both looked almost identical to me as well. The hard slash administered by both Carl Hagelin and Alex Ovechkin to the hand/stick of their opponent accomplished the very same thing - a turnover of puck possession. All I can suggest is that from the angle which the referee(s) viewed Alex Ovechkin's slash on Brian Boyle it did not appear severe enough for them to raise their hand and call a penalty. I, like you, would respectfully disagree.
Both Hagelin and Ovechkin took a two-handed swing with their stick in an almost parallel position while attempting a stick check. I would determine the stick swing in both cases as a "forceful chop with the stick" on an opponent's body (hands) and stick as described in rule 61- slashing.
The fact that John Carlson dropped his stick on his own after receiving the slash from Hagelin, as opposed to it being knocked out of his hands like Boyle would have no bearing on my determination that this was a penalty. The force of the swing by Hagelin was the determining factor. While the force of Ovechkin's slash to the same area of Boyle (hands/stick) caused Boyle to lose his stick the overriding factors to cause both of these plays to violate the slashing rule were the force and power of the slash to the hand area of an opponent which caused a change of puck possession.
The Hagelin infraction was ruled on correctly; the Ovechkin slashing infraction was not!
2) Next from Rob in Aurora, ON who asked, "Hello Mr. Fraser. Now I know you'll get many questions asked about this topic, but I will just simply ask this. Can you explain why the ref called Claude Giroux's hit on Zubrus last night a "high sticking" penalty? I can't think of why that was called especially since his stick was not even close to being "high". Was there a better call to make considering the hit? Like roughing, just wondering? Keep up the great work Kerry. It's a great column!"
Actually Rob, the referee did get the call right as listed on the official score sheets. He assessed an illegal check to the head penalty under Rule 48.1 which states "A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted." The prescribed penalty under the rule is for a minor penalty with no option to assess a major or game misconduct (If the referee determines the player attempted to deliberately injure his opponent a match penalty can be assessed).
3) Taking this same Claude Giroux hit to the next level "AJ" asks the question; "How did he not get more minutes on that play? It was a retaliatory late hit to the head and the intent was clear. It was exactly what the NHL is trying to get rid of. The head was the principle and rather the only point of contact and if Giroux does not receive a suspension then the officiating of the league loses all credibility to me and shows that there is no consistency."
Well "AJ," as I stated a minor penalty is the prescribed penalty for an illegal hit to the head.
I have seen similar checks during the playoffs where the head became the principle point of contact and nothing resulted in each case. The one that comes to mind right off the top is in the Flyers-Penguins series when Evgeni Malkin hunted down Nicklas Grossman from behind and planted a shoulder to the Flyers defenseman's chin. Grossman missed some time as a result of this contact combined with another high hit.
Claude Giroux appeared angry last night on several occasions. His frustration with the referees got the better of him. Giroux appeared to be in a verbal confrontation with the ref and utilized hand gestures to make his opinion known that Martin Brodeur had played the puck outside of the trapezoid area and no penalty resulted. It was at that point that Claude Giroux took off on a back-check and hit Dainius Zubrus with a late, illegal check to the head with seconds remaining in the second period. It should also be noted that Claude Giroux did not leave his feet at any time prior, during or after contact was made with Zubrus.
I'm OK with a one game suspension to Claude Giroux because it was a wreckless, foolish play on the part of Giroux. He let his anger get the better of him and that is not acceptable. Targeting and hitting the head of Dainius Zubrus had nothing to do with finishing a check on a player that had released the puck on a dump-in.
4) I am going to jump on board and join Rob and AJ on the question of illegal checks to the head. My concern stems from a check that Alex Ovechkin delivered on Dan Girardi at 12:17 of the second period. The puck passed through Ovenchkin's skates and he continued on a path toward Ranger's defenseman Girardi with a reasonable gap of space and time to deviate or alter his ultimate form of contact.
After showing no regard for the puck or turning back in an attempt to gain possession Alex closed the gap and simultaneously with or just prior to contact left his skates and launched himself in an upward position to make Dan Girardi's head the principle point of contact. To offer some minor credit to Ovechkin he did let up on the force that he could have generated through the check on Girardi but none the less contact to the head was made!
To AJ's point, these plays (and others we have seen) are the types of contact to the head of an opponent that the NHL is attempting to remove from the game. Alex Ovechkin will likely tell you that he was trying to "protect" himself or just play the game hard. We know this an ongoing problem that won't be solved in these playoffs but will carry over to this summer and attempted to be addressed next season. Players have to think about their actions and the consequences that result before they hit their opponent in the head.
Ovechkin received a minor penalty for charging when he left his feet to make the hit. That is the correct penalty assessment. Alex Ovechkin is listed as 6'3 and with skates on becomes 6'7. Once a player of this stature straightens his legs and elevates as much as 10" off the ice, his body mass moves to above 7.' At this height, it only stands to reason that the head of an opponent will likely become the principle point of contact.
I don't think it's enough just to assess a minor penalty when a player leaves his feet and then makes the head of his opponent the principle point of contact. Regardless of how Brendan Shanahan and the Player Protection Committee handles supplementary discipline I would like to see the call made on the ice to identify the two rules that were violated. Referees should assess any illegal hit to the head independent from another infraction whenever possible.
If that were the case, Alex Ovechkin would have received a minor penalty for charging (feet off the ice) and an additional two minute penalty for illegal check to the head. The team then is made to suffer for the poor decision of any player that decides to launch himself upward and into the head of his opponent.
That is how I would like to see it called!
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