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First off love your column!
Can you discuss the Andrew Desjardins hit on Jamal Mayers on Tuesday?
I am baffled that he got a five-minute major and a match penalty for the hit. To me, Desjardins' hit looked completely clean. When Mayers received the puck, it appeared as though Desjardins hit Mayers cleanly shoulder-to-shoulder. This was such a key moment in the game as the Desjardins penalty negated all the momentum San Jose received from the hit, and the 4 minute power play (the Keith double-minor) they would have gotten if the hit wasn't called. Do you have any explanation for why they did call it a hit to the head? Thanks.
I completely agree that Andrew Desjardins delivered a clean, open-ice hockey hit on Jamal Mayers after receiving a suicide pass from his Hawk teammate Duncan Keith. Desjardins executed a perfect shoulder-to-shoulder check and neither targeted Mayers' head nor did it become the principle point of contact. To be perfectly blunt, at no time did Andrew Desjardins even make contact to the head of Jamal Mayers!
In answer to your question, let me attempt to provide some explanation as to how the officials could assess a match penalty under Rule 48.5 — Illegal Check to the Head; the most severe penalty in the book. Aside from the five- minute time penalty and expulsion from the game, the player is automatically suspended from further competition until the commissioner (or his designate) has ruled on the issue.
After this hit and order had been restored following the fight that was instigated by Duncan Keith, the four officials gathered for a lengthy conference at the referees' crease. Each member of the crew offered his opinion given the angle and sightline he had on the play. At least one of the crew would have felt certain (from his vantage point) that Desjardins had deliberately attempted to injure Mayers with an illegal check to the head. It appeared to me that one of the linesman provided considerable input prior to arriving at a final decision.
Following the shoulder-to-shoulder contact delivered by Desjardins, the impact caused the San Jose player to finish the check with his right arm moving in an upward/high position. This could give the impression from a certain angle that contact had been delivered directly to the head of Mayers. While this obviously did not occur, it is reasonable to assume that at least one of the officials was positive he saw this occur. A penalty of this magnitude would not be assessed unless at least one of the officials made the case that he was "certain" of what he saw before laying his neck on the block.
An obvious mistake was made on this call and the match penalty to Desjardins was rescinded, expunged from his record and he will return to the San Jose Sharks active roster immediately.
The officials are not the only ones that erred on this play. After watching footage, I am certain that in the future, Duncan Keith will make the safe, smart play that was available to him with an outlet pass on the left wing boards to Michael Frolik. Aside from the pass being in Mayers' skates, Keith should have seen that Desjardins was plugging up the middle and Mayers presented an easy target while looking back to receive a pass, whether on the tape or in the skates. Fortunately, Mayers did not appear to sustain an injury on the play.
The correct call on this one would have seen Keith in the box for 14 minutes while the Sharks went on a four-minute power play.