Division rivals, arch nemesis, and the past two Stanley Cup winning franchises squared off for the 2nd time this season last night and did not disappoint. Pittsburgh and Washington is appointment viewing hockey, there’s no shortage of adjectives, cliches, and hype when you get a handful of the best players in the world squaring off, especially when both teams have been getting subpar goaltending from their Cup winning goalies.
Braden Holtby currently sitting at .899 sv% and 3.37 GAA in 11 games compared to Matt Murray and his troublesome .886 sv% and 3.87 GAA. Murray has struggled so much he didn’t even get the start and was spelled by Pens backup Casey DeSmith who played as well as could be asked in the situation.
Before we get into the action shoutout to the Capitals organization who I will often criticize as I think Ted Leonsis is a huge goober, HOWEVA they did a great thing tonight.
Not to be outdone the Great 8 equaled the score and wow factor with a Power Play rocket of his own we’ve seen so many times from the Russian Machine.
With the game tied up in the 3rd you got the feeling this was going to a classic finish one way or the other. Entering the zone halfway through the period Geno Malkin laid a hit on TJ Oshie that changed the game.
The officials wasted no time hitting Geno with a 5 minute major and Game Misconduct ending his night in Washington (MUCH more on this below). Oshie was already banged up after taking high stick from Olli Maatta earlier in the game that was missed by the officials and left a wicked gash on his nose near his eye. To the Penguins credit they didn’t fall to pieces and kept coming with several more chances to win the game after the 5 minute kill.
After going to the locker room for the 2nd time in the night (clearing the concussion protocols) Oshie would return with a vengeance and put the nail in the coffin with for the Pens with just over a minute left slamming home this perfect dish from Carlson.
Caps win 2-1, even the season series at 1 game a piece. The Pens have now lost 5 straight games for the first time under Mike Sullivan. You can rest assured GMJR is contemplating a roster move as we speak for a spark.
Now let’s dive into this Malkin hit, buckle up. My initial reaction at game speed was “oh shit, that’s a bad Geno penalty right there.” He has a reputation for poorly timed offensive zone penalties. Upon watching it a few times over and seeing the slow mo my line of thinking changed to “HOW IN THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO THROW HIM OUT! HE’S BRACING FOR CONTACT! GET YOUR HEAD UP OSHIE, GET YOUR BIG DUMB PERFECT JAW LINE OUT OF GENO’S SHOULDER IDIOT!”
Interference? Sure… Fine. 2 minutes have a seat. A game misconduct? Still not sure… but here’s the thing, above all it’s a hit to the head. This is what matters now to the league (at least this month it does). Malkin is for sure bracing for contact but he’s definitely throwing his weight into it and the principle point of contact is the head, plus the way Oshie went down I see why the refs made the call they did in real time.
Oshie didn’t seem bothered and even related as he often does a similar tactic.
Because of the severity of the calls on the ice and the fact that Oshie came back into the game to play (which matters to the league whether we think it should or shouldn’t) I don’t think there will be a suspension involved. It wasn’t one of those predatory head hunting hits (like this hit from Brendan Lemieux which got him 2 games where the head contact was most definitely avoidable). The NHL hands out suspensions from a plinko board though so you can never really be certain.
UPDATE: I was right, he won’t.
That being said it’s time the NHL decided if they’re all in or all out on hits to the head. Call it soft, but body checks in this game are meant to separate player from puck, not injure. Here is the current ruling on NHL hits to the head:
- Rule 48.1: Illegal Check to the Head: A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted.
- In determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit including the following shall be considered:
- (i) Whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not “picked” as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.
- (ii) Whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.
- (iii) Whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.
Still a lot of gray area as you can see, especially in this case. Malkin has a height advantage on Oshie naturally placing his shoulder at head level when Oshie “assumes a posture that made head contact unavoidable.” To save the NHL and the officials from themselves the time has to come to just adopt the IIHF rules on hits to the head:
All of them. Penalize all of them. Make it consistent across the board. It’s the only way guys will stop ramming their shoulders and elbows into each others faces.
What do you think? Suspension worthy? Fine as it is? Let me know on social til we get the comment section up and running.