Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators

It’s time to play everybody’s favourite NHL game show, Guess the Shanaban!

Last night Chris Neil made Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Simon Despres go boom, and got a two minute minor penalty for it. Let’s have a look, break it down, then discuss.

The facts:

The Senators dump the puck in the zone, and Simon Despres is the Penguins defenseman back to retrieve it. He senses back pressure, picks up the puck, and goes to wheel behind the net to avoid the pressure. F2 (in this case Chris Neil) would normally be reading off Despres and reacting (given Despres already has a pursuer), so the d-man doesn’t expect him to be coming too. Neil has his wheels going. He stops skating at the hashmarks, but has a lot of speed up already. He puts his shoulder into the shoulder/chest area of an unsuspecting Despres (catching some head after the initial body contact), and the contact is violent. He gets two minutes for charging.

My opinion:

I think we can all agree there will be no suspension here, and the fact that it’s Chris Neil and not Kyle Turris has a lot to do with the reaction. Neil hits to hurt, which as we’ve seen before, is still allowed in the NHL. Hitting to hurt is an intimidation tactic that forces players to make panic decisions with the puck instead of just holding on to it, which is why guys like Neil are employed. This is a big hit, a dangerous hit, but I think a legal one under the league’s current guidelines. I don’t think it’s charging, because you naturally skate around the rink, and he stopped once he had Despres lined up. All in all…I say clean.

Your opinion:

In the comments, we’d love to hear if you think this was a malicious play, a hockey play, or something totally different. The caveat: as always with “Court of Public Opinion” posts, you have to honestly list your favourite team (I have no dog in the fight as an Isles guy). That doesn’t mean if you’re a Penguins fan and you think it was vicious and terrible that your opinion will be immediately discounted. I just think it helps with context.

Comments (64)

  1. I wouldn’t have a problem with it per se, agreeing with your points about the legality/2 min penalty.

    However, if Cooke delivered that exact hit, in that game, to say Alfredsson, Ottawa (or at least the Sun writers) might have stroked out.

    Actually, I would have liked to have seen that. The reaction, not Alfredsson getting knocked out of his career.

    Imagine how many more penis stories there would have been.

  2. Penguins fan and I didn’t really have a problem with it. Some on my blog lamented the contact to the head, but given how Despres was in a natural “doubled over” position as he skated it away, I think it’d be hard not to hit the head somewhere in there.

    And Despres himself doesn’t tweet all that often but still said last night:
    “To all the young dman out there!! Don’t forget to shoulder check or you can #learnthehardway lol ”

    He didn’t have a problem with it, so that’s that.

    Given how big of a hit it was, and the crap Neil had been stirring all game long post-whistle, it probably was wise to give him two minutes for it. Probably could have been classified a roughing though, since as you mentioned that wasn’t really charging

  3. St. Louis Blues fan

    I say clean. I don’t really agree with the charging penalty if you say he stopped skating at the hash. I saw clean shoulder contact. Great hit.

  4. The case could be made here for boarding (“thrown violently into the boards”), or head contact (he leads high-ish with the forarms). Charging is an incorrect call because as you mentioned he clearly stopped skating well before the hit. In any case, a minor was probably the correct call and I don’t think a suspension is warranted.

    Blackhawks fan with no opinion on either team involved.

    • Not skating is not a reason to not call charging.

      Too many negatives, but it’s too early to figure out how else to say that.

      • Caps fan (who’s only experienced two playoff series losses to Pittsburgh).

        From the NHL Rulebook

        “42.1 Charging – A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner.

        Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.”

        The second paragraph confuses me, but the first is pretty clear. I think the general interpretation is if you skate into a hit (3+ steps) or jump into a hit, then it’s charging. Neil stopped skating well before contact. Seems like he kept his skates on the ice (angle isn’t good) and kept his elbows down for contact. Clean to me.

  5. Are you sure the penalty was for charging? I swear he was given 2 minutes because he’s Chris Neil.

    • 2 minutes for being Chris Neil is better then what Macintyre was going to give him for being Chris Neil.
      Should consider himself lucky.
      Why was Kassian not in?

  6. leafs fan.
    no problem with the hit.

  7. Leafs fan: I hate Neil. Great clean hit of how it SHOULD be done. Head contact was after the fact when his head whip lashed from being smashed in the chest. He coasted enough distance to not be charging. He never left his feet for it to be charging. That was IIHF charging penalty. It looked bad and sounded bad so it MUST be a penalty.

  8. Devs fan – Clean by me.

  9. Pens fan.

    Didn’t have a problem with the hit.

    But it’s sad that then NHL has gotten to the point, where my first thought was that if he stayed down and the trainer had to come out, chances are Neil would have been tossed.

    Helmet flying off, player “hurt”, seems to always result in a major.

  10. Looks a little “elbow to the head”y for me from those angles, but I’m a Penguins fan and think Neil is a caveman idiot.

    I’d be happy with a game or two, or maybe some sort totally unnecessary and embarrassing in depth 3rd party forensic investigation.

  11. 1st, there is no requirement that you be skating for a charging penalty to be called. From the NHL rulebook, “A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player
    who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner.
    Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of
    distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A
    “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal
    frame or in open ice.”
    To me, that’s the right call. Neil still got to send his message, but he definitely travelled quite a ways to violently check Despres.
    No suspension, no major penalty. The fact that Despres got up right away and was smiling when talking to Cowen would indicate that though there was head contact, his head didn’t take the bulk of the hit.
    All good, let’s move on.
    Context: I like both teams, but am not a fan of either. I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to hits to the head. I was watching the game and at first thought it might be a bad hit. Upon review, I don’t see any reason for more than the 2 minute penalty.

  12. This is a clear cut boarding penalty.

    But no one knows what the hell boarding is, and it sounded and looked violent, so they go with charging.

    NYR fan here, former player and one who didn’t mind getting lit up in a game, unless it was a hit just like this. Always had visions of my neck snapping after my body had to fold like an accordion to fit in the tiny space between the guy who rocked me and the corner where the boards meet the ice. Once I realized I still had use of my limbs, I’d usually try to murder whoever it was that hit me, clean hit or no.

    • “Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of
      distance traveled”"

      This my problem with this rule. Define “distance traveled”?? 5′, 10′, 20′, one zone away, half the rink?? The old “interpretation” used to be not striding into the player and coasting made it “ok”. That obviously has changed but does anyone KNOW how they interpret that now?? It seems to be different with different refs and for different players.

  13. NYR Fan. Hater of Headshots.

    From the 2 angles on the clip, it looks like he gets the chest and not the head, but it seems close. Despres wasnt facing the boards, so he wasnt in a particularly dangerous position.

    That said I wouldnt mind seeing hits like this punished as a means of making players realize that it would not taken much for this to have crossed the line. He gets his arms up 2 more inches, or Despres moves his head a few inches, and we’ve got an Iron MIke Sharpe forearm smash. Neil is coming in at such a great speed, is Despres had pulled up quickly and tried to turn, this could have been a horrible hit from behind. Again, I know this means hitting in the NHL would “change”, but Neil could have come in slower, given himself that extra split second to react, not going for the freight train hit.

    • suspend him because it wasn’t but could have been bad? Wow. Almost 75% of the hits in hockey “could” turn out but don’t.

  14. Bruins fan here. Looked like a clean hit, so not seeing even 2 minutes for charging here.

    • The day we trust a bruins fan on the the cleanliness of a hit.
      Dont you clowns still think that hit on Emelin wasnt dirty?
      The diving knee threw looked like it came from the WWE.

      • You ought to go back read the public court of opinion on that hit. You won’t like what you find….

        • Regarding Cherry, you might want to acquaint yourself with a team that plays in the Air Canada Centre. SanJoseQuervo, nobody likes a whiner…..

  15. Pens fan – clean hit, not a charge. I think the refs knew that too, but gave Neil the two so things didn’t escalate. In a normal situation, no call on Neil, 2 minutes to Adams. Here they give Neil 2 and Adams 4 for the same net result.

  16. I like Matt Cooke, and sure, maybe he didn’t have to fight Neil early in the game.

    But, I think this potentially dangerous hit to an important player on the Pens doesn’t happen if Cooke steps up and takes one for the team first shift by dropping them with Neil.

    Agree or disgree?

    • Grant – our posts overlapped. I didn’t see the Cooke/Neil scrap. Still don’t think the Pens are as tough as they were a couple of years ago. True?

      • I don’t think it’s true. You looks at Kunitz, Dupuis, Morrow, Iginla the Pens have a ton of wingers who can get physical on the forecheck. Defensively with Orpik and Murray there’s the muscle to keep the front of the net clear.

        They don’t have a lot of goons, but I definitely think they have the personnel needed to play the style that Bylsma wants to, assuming health.

        • Lot of gritty guys on that list. Not guys that will make someone like Neil settle down, but certainly guys that won’t back down in a tough playoff series.

          • I don’t think Neil would have any interest in dropping the gloves with Iginla outside of the fact that it’s a great trade off for his team. That would be an ass kicking.

          • A guy like Neil is going to do what he’s going to do, I don’t think having an Asham or a Rupp or anyone like that is going to totally prevent anything. If that bubbles up the Pens have to stand up for themselves. (Thinking Morrow on PK Subban)

          • Engelland, Iginla, and Murray are more then capable of closing neil down.
            That Macintyre guy though, his youtube highlights have been being posted on Hockeyfights since the call up.

      • Hey, sorry I wasn’t clear. They didn’t scrap, because Cooke wouldn’t engage.

        If Cooke stepped up and fought him, Neil wouldn’t be out there with his #1 priority to hurt people since the Sens are just clinging on to a playoff spot. Becasue of that, I think that the hit wouldn’t have even happened (not like it did at least).

        • My bad. Re-read you post – and agree the game is probably tamer if Cooke takes on Neil on that first shift.

          • Thats the problem with the hit.
            He took out his frustration on a young player when he couldnt get the fight he wanted, and was scared of the fight he didnt want.
            Other then that no problem with the hit.
            Kid even tweeted for young Dmen to keep their heap up to avoid stuff like that after the game.

          • Sens fan, and I gotta just defend one point – which is the ‘scared of the fight he didn’t want thing’. Neil is many things, including a frustrating pest and one of the masters of the ‘just on the right side of the law’ hits, but he’s never been a guy to duck from a fight. I mean, he fought Zdeno Chara for cripes sake, and he’s never backed down from fighting other team’s go-to enforcers when called upon.

            That said, I do agree that he was running around because Cooke turned him down.

    • Pens fan here. I agree the game is less chippy if Cooke fights Neil, but why should he? First of all, the Senators were stupid to make Cooke their priority, and second, they played right into the Pens’ hands that way, and were totally off their game. As long as Neil was running around trying to start stuff, as long as the Pens and Cooke were frustrating him by not engaging – unless it was MacIntyre, lol – then the Pens could just, you know, score some goals and win the game while the Sens were otherwise occupied.

      Worked out just fine.

      • I agree with you, and it did turn out fine, but Neil came pretty damn close to killing Depres, and it could have been a lot worse.

      • I’m not saying Neil is right or wrong, but when his employer (Melnyk) is telling everyone that Cooke injured Karlsson on purpose he has to believe it too.

        Because Cooke wouldn’t drop with him, Neil has to exact his revenge another way. Cooke knew that, everyone did. Whether it’s right or wrong, Cooke put his teammates at risk. I didn’t like that at all.

        Living in Calgary, and having watched Iginla play hundreds of times, I can tell you that Jarome would have absolutely threw down with Neil, b/c it was the right thing to do. Wonder what his opinion of Matt Cooke is after that.

        • I still see it as more on Neil than on Cooke, but I do see what you’re saying, It just all seems really stupid to me.

  17. I thought this was 2 for charging for sure, but nothing more than that.

    Neil is a beast, gotta love him.

  18. No rooting interest and no problem with the hit.

    Caught bits and pieces of the game and it seemed every time Neil was on the ice he was trying to get something started. Didn’t see anyone on the Pens particularly eager to engage or take that edge off the game.

    Thinking back to last year’s playoff opener with Philly, I’m wondering if the Pens are missing that element of toughness that you sometimes need.

    • Neil was just being Neil… He went after Cooke (I get that), ran Despres, and tried to fight Orpik (who never fights). Neil dodged Douglas Murray and wanted no part of Steve MacIntyre. Just Neil being Neil. He’s a tough guy, but usually only targets guys who he knows he will beat.

    • I agree with Hooks, any lack of toughness was addressed with Iginla, Morrow, and Murray. Engellan’s as tough as anyone, Orpik still has some left in the tank, and Sutter and Neal can hold their own.

      As a Pens fan, I’ve got no concerns there. Speed is my biggest concern probably.

  19. Looks about as dirty as Cooke’s premeditated ginsuing of Karlsson’s achilles

  20. Pens fan here, no real problem with the hit. If that was a pens player laying the hit I would be standing and cheering so I cant fault Neil for it either. A 2-minute call to keep things from escalating given all the circumstances of the game made sense, but again, no real issue with the hit.

  21. Flyers fan.

    Clean is what my gut says. (Wouldn’t mind a reverse angle to check out how high the forearms started)

    But looks to me like Despres had a bouncing puck and kept his head down a second too long and got railed. Charging call is bs but two minutes for boarding would probably have been better. I say no suspension but my Shanaban guess is 2 or 3 games because WHATEVER, you know?

  22. Oilers fan, who hates Neil and is getting fed up with Ottawa fans in general.

    The hit looked clean to me, he might have jumped a little, which is why he got called for charging I guess. Despres wasn’t hurt on the play either. I think Neil gets a pass.

    But if it was another guy on Pittsburgh hitting a Sen like that last night the crowd would have gone apoplectic.

  23. Leafs fan.

    Good old NHL – great hit!
    Current paranoid NHL – head shot!

    Neil’s got a rep and that may factor in here.

  24. Hahaha OUCH!!! Ive played hockey since i could stand on 2 feet and a Pens fan through and through but that was a great hit and seemed legal. Sucks to be the recipient but DAMN!!!

  25. What would Wendel get for this today? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGRheKlGbq0

  26. Leafs fan
    Borderline hit -the two minute minor is enough

  27. Leafs fan. Good hit, no penalty on the play, no charging. That’s a hit that can change momentum better than a facepunching.

  28. Hurricanes fan, fervent Penguin hater.

    Saw it happen live, how they got charging out of it is beyond me. I have no problem with Chris Neil hurting people legally. Something tells me hockey’s forefathers never said “you know what, this hurts and I don’t like it” so I see nothing wrong with that. He has always been an exciting player to watch from a neutral standpoint. You rarely watch a Sens game where he doesn’t have an impact. As someone who didn’t grow up with hockey but has done their best to catch up in the last 20 years, Ottawa is like the junior Canadian squad that the big kids let play almost out of pity. That’s the kind of hit that brings people out of their seats. The kid for Pitt had to skate around a bit after the play stopped, but he obviously wasn’t seriously hurt. Allow it.

    • “Ottawa is like the junior Canadian squad that the big kids let play almost out of pity.”

      …What? Looks like you have managed much catching up over that 20 years.

  29. I think its BS. I’ve seen hits far less aggressive get a suspension. If it was Kunitz or Cooke it would have been reviewed. The target of the hit was the head of despres. NHL needs to make it zero tolerance on targeting head. Check out the uncalled high stick in last nights game.

  30. Habs fan. Can’t prove that he targets the head, but it does look like it. Ugly, but not suspendable. Maybe should be, this was a couple inches from sending Despres teeth into the cheap seats.

  31. Islander fan

    Clean hockey hit, no penalty. Depres has his head down and is oblivious to what is about to hit him. Shame on him.

  32. I thought this hit was terrible.

  33. Clean, and it shouldn’t even have been a minor penalty.

  34. Bruins fan (and not a big fan of Neil in particular): clean hit, no Shanaban.

    It appears to me that NHL referees are legislating to the angle, and will penalize any player who is going straight at the end boards at a pace faster than a single, long stride. If that hit happens at the blue line they have no problem with it; because Neil was headed straight for the endboards, and Despres caught part of it afterwards, that’s the only reason this is even being discussed.

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