Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at email@example.com.
I have always respected your on-ice decision skills, so I would like your opinion regarding this hit.
Was this a case of the player turning his back when he was going to be hit or did Kadri hit a player in a vulnerable position?
I did post a late comment @kfraserthecall on Twitter that you must have missed. Sorry it was late but I was engaged in 'Twitter combat' (and being duly vilified) by Canadiens fans over the Brendan Gallagher episode against the Jets!
With regard to your question, Cody Ceci was positioned facing the end boards in order to retrieve the puck after it was turned back from the corner by teammate Jared Cowen and as he was being pressured on the forecheck by Nikolai Kulemin of the Leafs. Ceci didn't intentionally turn his body at the last second to set himself up for a hit by Nazem Kadri. That had no bearing on why a penalty call did not result.
Instead, Ceci was facing square to the end boards waiting for the puck to arrive on his stick just as Kadri angled from the front of the net and delivered a body check that should have resulted in a boarding minor penalty. The initial point of contact delivered by Kadri was to the left hip of Ceci and not on the numbers. The finishing upward push exerted by Nazem Kadri caused the Ottawa player to tumble forward into the boards. Let me explain for Senators coach Paul McLean and the Ottawa fans why the call was missed by the referees.
When you re-examine the video closely, you will see that referee Paul Devorski, working past his 1,500th game, pivoted out from the corner toward the end faceoff circle in order to vacate the space that Jared Cowen and Nikolai Kulemin would occupy in pursuit of the puck. The referee then rotated his body 360 degrees in a drift back below the goal line but retained visual focus on both Cowen and Kulemin with a fixed glance over his shoulder well after Cowen dished the puck back toward Ceci.
It is clearly evident from the footage that referee Devorski did not turn his head and visual focus toward the action near the net until after Kadri had delivered the illegal hit on Ceci. All the referee witnessed at this point was Ceci down on the ice and Kadri in possession of the puck just prior to a tape-to-tape pass out front to Joffrey Lupul for the Leafs goal. I am positive that referee Devorski would have deemed the hit by Kadri to be worthy of a boarding minor infraction if he had been focused on and witnessed the contact.
Since the hit happened directly behind the net the back referee would have at best, an obstructed view if he was looking in that direction. His primary responsibility and area of coverage however was on the action away from the puck; which at that point would have included Cowen and Kulemin in the corner.
While we do not see the back referee in the footage, it is conceivable that both refs failed to transition their area of focus once the puck was thrown back behind the net by Cowen. If that were the case, both refs maintained visual focus on the two players in the corner and did not observe the Kadri boarding on Ceci.
I hate to be bearer of bad news coach Paul, but that is how the boarding penalty to Kadri was missed and resulted in the Leafs goal that tied the game at two!