Fraser: Rinaldo's hits on Volchenkov and Zubrus

Kerry Fraser
5/9/2012 1:38:45 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

Dear Kerry,
What are your thoughts on Zac Rinaldo delivering a hit to Anton Volchenkov early in Game 5 tonight? (there was no call made on it)
Michael in NL
Hi Kerry,
Great to see New Jersey knock off Philly. New Jersey kept it a lot cleaner, as Philly seemed to unravel, raining down dirty hits as the series went on.
Just wondering if you had any thoughts of Rinaldo's hit on Volchenkov in the final game of the series. Rinaldo appears to accelerate for about 30 feet, any reason why there wasn't a charging call? Is this not a flagrant hit? Rinaldo followed that up with a dirty knee on knee on Zubrus, which was penalized.
Kris from Montreal
Hi Kerry, column is great - just a quick question.
During Game 5 between Philly and Jersey when Zach Rinaldo hit Dainius Zubrus low and to the knee and the three Flyers players are skating around taunting him - couldn't that be called unsportsmanlike? Very unclassy thing to do and I thought maybe you could shed some light on the situation.
Joseph Bunn
Hey Kerry,
In Game 4 of the Devils/Flyers series after Giroux's hit on Zubrus, Voracek came by and started trash talking an injured Zubrus. After Rinaldo's hit on Zubrus in Game 5, Rinaldo, Couturier and Talbot (I think) all came by and trashed talked Zubrus while he was down injured. These plays all seemed unsportsmanlike to me. Would you have called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in either of these plays?
Greg Brooks

Michael, Kris, Joseph and Greg:

The series temperature and frustration level of the Philadelphia Flyers quickly escalated during Game 4 when they couldn't solve the Devils speed and constant quick pressure on the puck. Claude Giroux, the Flyers emotional leader and arguably best player throughout the regular season and playoffs misdirected his energy and focus toward the referees in that game and as a result took out his frustration on Dainius Zubrus with an illegal check to the head.

Giroux served his one game suspension and had to watch from the sidelines as the Flyers were eliminated by the Devils in Game 5. Giroux is extremely well liked and respected by his teammates and they weren't prepared to away easy; even if it meant an eye for eye mentality.

With 15:30 on the clock, Anton Volchenkov crushed Braydon Schenn with a hard but clean check behind the Devils' goal. It only took two minutes and one second for Zac Rinaldo to return the favour with a big hit of his own on Volchenkov just off the side wall. I don't think there is any doubt that Rinaldo was looking for the first opportunity to level Volchenkov (video link) in payment for the Schenn hit.

It is also true that Rinaldo approached Volchenkov from the middle slot with speed. While this "distance traveled" is language used to determine charging under Rule 42, Zac Rinaldo created a legal approach when he glided a remaining number of feet prior to delivering his check on Volchenkov.  The contact Rinaldo made on Volchenkov would also be considered legal since Rinaldo's hands and elbows did not come beyond an acceptable level nor did he make contact with Volchenkov's head. With the "glide factor" eliminating a charging infraction this was just a good, hard body check; albeit with added incentive and purpose after Schenn was hit!

A bit of a pattern develops here when Zac Rinaldo took out Dainius Zubrus, another payback recipient, with a low bridge hip check (video link) just above the knees. While kneeing was initially reported on the call, interference appears on the official score sheet as Pierre Maguire of NBC correctly pointed out at the time. This was a needless and dirty play.  The puck was in the opposite corner of the rink as Zubrus cut around the net and was low bridged by Rinaldo. I can appreciate the fact that the refs would not want to put the game on the line by assessing a five-minute major penalty for clipping even though Zubrus appeared shaken up on the play and was attended to.

It was clear that Zac Rinaldo's hit on Zubrus was not a finish of a check or anything other than a player seeking retribution and to deliver a message that would most likely incite player hostilities. I would have brought the temperature down and established a boundary on this type of unwanted action in the game by assessing a misconduct penalty to Rinaldo for attempting to incite in addition to the minor for interference. While it might be a stretch of the rule the game and player safety would require it.

When any "taunting cavalry" arrived on the scene I know I would have immediately dropped my arm that had been raised on the delayed call and been very proactive in instructing them to leave the scene of the crime or receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Having taken these measures I know a conversation would also result at the Flyers bench with coach Peter Laviolette. It would be my attempt to convince the coach that his player came very close to putting their team at a five-minute disadvantage and I would not have any revenge seeking on my watch. I would encourage the coach to make sure his player's focus remained singularly in attempting to win the game and extending the series.

This isn't purely speculative on my part. I have taken this action and had conversations of this very nature with coaches when necessary.  For an example, read The Monday Night Miracle from The Final Call when I issued the message to St. Louis Blues coach Jacques Demers through Captain Rob Ramage at the end of the second period off Game 6 in the 1986 Western Conference Final.

The New Jersey Devils' players, the coaching staff of Peter DeBoer, Larry Robinson and Adam Oates along with general manager Lou Lamoriello are to be congratulated on a executing a terrific game plan to perfection in their series victory. I have never seen a Devils team play so well.

The next round should be very interesting in both the East and West.

For a personally autographed copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit The Book Keeper website.

For a regular copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit here.

Zac Rinaldo (Photo: Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)


(Photo: Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)
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