Picture doesn't exactly do the clean hit justice. Check out the video below.

It’s tough to tell when rule changes in the NHL have actually made a difference. We can tell the obstruction rule-change fiasco from a number of years ago helped increase the amount of goals being scored because – check out this scientific logic – more goals were scored. With the head shot rule change, it’s a little harder to determine.

There are going to be more head shot calls now because referees are paying close attention, looking to call them every time there’s any decent amount of contact. Also because, as I implied in an earlier post, players know this and might be trying to draw penalties using that advantage (Though Elliotte Friedman did mention refs are going to start looking for “head-snaps” now too).

Where the stats are at now isn’t going to give a very honest reflection of the number of real head shots compared to last year.

Hm. This pic does the same as the top one. Just watch the videos.

But after some time (much like the loss of obstruction), the players figure it out, the refs chill out, and positive change has occured.

With all the attention we’ve heaped on head shots, doesn’t it seem like the players seem to actually be adhering to the new rules in the early going? They might just be sick of hearing the same conversation over and over (as Brooks Laich was), but hey, I don’t really care why as long as they stick to it.

Shannahammer came out in pre-season SWINGING. Guys had already been constantly hearing about head shots in the past, but then they’d see someone plant an elbow in a dude’s temple and get a whopping one game suspension. With Shanny coming in, the league added some bite to their bark.

Some on the wrong other side of the debate thought we couldn’t remove head shots because we didn’t want to lose big hits. We didn’t want to eliminate the trolley tracks over the blue line. We wanted a physical game.

Well, with just a scosh more attention to avoid skull-smashing, look at what the league has given us just five games in.

Vlasic has his head down here and doesn’t see Bobby Ryan flying into the zone (by the way, count the strides he takes….zero). Ryan could very easily hit him in the head. In fact, he almost has to get low and lift up to make it clean, but he seems very aware of where on the body he hits Vlasic. I love this hit.

BOOM.

And from the same game, Joe Pavelski is planning on cutting across the blueline. He sees Francois Beauchemin skating into the zone, and glances down assuming he’ll continue. Nope. Beuchemin plants, gets low, and gets all shoulder.

Nice.

Any Marty Reasoner he thought this move would work?

With their size difference, that’s as low as Girardi can get and still play defense.

There have been some seriously big hits this year, and the best of them have been nothing but clean. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s been such a hot button issue that I’m more aware of the clean monster checks at this point in the season, but I don’t think so. I think a couple of those could’ve ended in the type of “oh god is he dead?” finishes as we’ve seen players left in the past, if the hitters weren’t being a little more cautious.

It’s early in the season, only about five games per team, but from where I’m sitting, it looks like the ruckus everyone raised over head trauma in our game is slowly translating into results. Here’s one more for good measure:

Mike Richards with a clean hit? It’s official! Hockey is saved! (I kid, Flyers fans, I kid.)