A night in the NHL just isn’t complete without questionable decisions and hits to the melon and/or jock to debate.
So what are we waiting for! Let’s start dissecting hits that will happen in a similar fashion again tomorrow night.
We begin in Buffalo, where the Sabres shut out the Flyers 1-0 in a game that saw little scoring, but plenty of typical Flyers shenanigans.
With only a few seconds left in the second period, Mike Richards’ attempt to brace himself for a hit resulted in an elbow to the beak of Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta.
Richards was given a five-minute major for elbowing, forcing Philadelphia to forge ahead and try to solve Ryan Miller without their top centre.
Kaleta’s hit is the kind of collision we see a dozen times every game, and the recipient of said hit is usually able to prepare for impact without raising their elbow in a dangerous fashion. Richards is guilty of being careless, but that crime shouldn’t have been worthy of a major penalty. This smells strongly of refereeing based purely on the result of the action, and not the action itself.
Next we fast forward to the end of Buffalo’s win over Philadelphia. With the buzzer sounding, Pierre McGuire’s favourite firecracker Nathan Gerbe engaged in the usual post-game tussle with a few Flyers. It wasn’t anything especially out of the ordinary until Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen decided to test the durability of Gerbe’s jock.
Other than Gerbe’s voice perhaps raising a few octaves, the tussle ended harmlessly, and the boiling blood in this series will simmer until Game 5 on Sunday.
Lastly, we have Jarkko Ruttu catching Martin Erat with an open-ice hit.
The hit occurred four minutes into the second period. Erat left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return, while Ruutu was given a two-minute minor for interference.
The term “controversy” has become a vague label in today’s NHL, with nearly every jarring hit generating keyboard pounding and lost work productivity. Ruutu himself is a controversial figure, and maybe that alone is why so much chatter immediately surrounded this hit. But the severity of the hit and the potential for further discipline depends on the angle you’re viewing.
In the first angle we see from the centre ice camera, Ruutu seems to catch Erat with an elbow. In the second angle, his shoulder makes contact first, and then Ruutu’s elbow comes up as a result of his follow through (like nearly every Scott Stevens hit).
It’s obviously never fun to see anyone hurt under any circumstance. But if we believe what our eyes tell us in the second angle, then Ruutu’s only crime was arriving a few seconds after the puck.