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Fraser: Checking out Kadri's hit on Backstrom

Kerry Fraser

11/14/2013 1:01:33 PM

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

Hey Kerry!
 
I'm wondering if you could give us some insight as to why Nazem Kadri got away with only 'a two' for running Niklas Backstrom in Wednesday's game between the Wild and Leafs.
 
Every replay showed an elbow to the head of Backstrom, clear as day.
 
Is the fact that a new Ref was in the game? It seems to me that the weak call was at least partly responsible for the chippy atmosphere afterwards. Any insight would be great!
 
Mike in St Paul, MN
 
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Hi Kerry,
 
During the Toronto-Minnesota game, Nazem Kadri was given five and a game for a hit to the head. While Kadri got the game misconduct, Phil Kessel served the five-minute major penalty. How do they determine what player serves the five-minute major? Do the coaches pick a player to serve the penalty, and if so does that player have to be on the ice at the time the penalty was called?
 
Kyle Moore
 
Mike and Kyle:

Nazem Kadri made two very irresponsible decisions with separate hits to the head of Wild goalkeeper Niklas Backstrom at 7:07 of the first period and then to Mikael Granlund at 8:41 of the third. Both of these illegal hits to the head were worthy of a five-minute match penalty!

The match penalty, plus any additional penalties, shall be served by any player (excluding a goalkeeper) to be designated by the Coach through the Captain. The player designated, in this case Phil Kessel, must take his place in the penalty box immediately.

Kadri got a two minute 'free-pass' on the Backstrom hit by a rookie referee. Things happen much more quickly in the NHL than in the minor leagues. I am confident the young referee will learn from the experience he gained in his very first NHL game. We shall also see if Nazem Kadri is taught a lesson from both of these experiences?

The responsibility is place squarely upon every player to avoid contact with a goalkeeper wherever possible. When contact is unavoidable through a collision the player must do everything within his power to minimize the force generated. Beyond zero attempt by Nazem Kadri to avoid contact with Niklas Backstrom he generated what appears to have been excessive force with his elbow/forearm directly to the facemask of Backstrom causing the goalie to crash the back of his head onto the ice. Following the two minute power-play the Wild enjoyed, Backstrom was forced to leave the game.

There is a provision for the referee to assess a major penalty under rule 69 for goalkeeper interference as well as major and game misconduct for charging and elbowing. However, given the fact that Nazem Kadri made a decision to accelerate his elbow/forearm with force directly to the face/head (main point of contact) of Niklas Backstrom elevates the call to a match penalty under rule 48 in my judgment.  I see this beyond just a player running out real estate and finding himself in an unavoidable collision with a goalkeeper. Nazem Kadri had other options and a much better decision to make; the very least of which was to plant and finish with an extended forceful elbow/forearm to the head of Niklas Backstrom.

There is certainly some precedent set in the area of player contact with goalkeepers both inside and outside of the crease.  Classic examples of excessive illegal contact with a goalkeeper were demonstrated when Milan Lucic ran over/body checked Ryan Miller which resulted in a concussion to the Buffalo goalkeeper; then Jordan Tootoo crashed into Miller in the blue paint in the goalie's very first game back after recovering from Lucic induced "concussion like symptoms"; in a play-off game Andrew Shaw of the Blackhawks caught Mike Smith with a shoulder cap to the facemask as the goalie played the puck behind the goal. 

The bar of justice was raised after Milan Lucic escaped with only a minor penalty for charging and no suspension. You may recall my reaction the following day in C'Mon Ref where I stated that a major penalty and game misconduct plus a three-game suspension was warranted whenever a goalkeeper was run over in that fashion. Both Tootoo and Shaw were assessed a 5 minute major, game misconduct and three game suspensions.

The head contact Kadri delivered on Mikael Granlund was totally unnecessary, senseless, irresponsible, wreckless, and dangerous for starters. I could apply a host of other adjectives given the one goal lead the Leafs were protecting in addition to the separation between the two players and as Nazem Kadri approached to make what should have been a legal body check through Granlund's center mass.
 
I must repeat; whenever a player elevates his posture prior to and through a check the head of his opponent is highly susceptible to becoming the main point of contact.

The results of Nazem Kadri's hearing scheduled this afternoon for hitting the head of Niklas Backstrom are pending.