A trio of questionable plays marred the NHL action Tuesday night. Let’s try and sort through the fates of the perpetrators.
It seemed no player in any arena in any game Tuesday night was safe from a questionable hit. Alex Ovechkin, Zac Rinaldo and Anze Kopitar all found themselves on the receiving ends.
First, the Washington Capitals’ Ovie took a spear to the groin from New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal:
The act seems deliberate enough, but Staal is probably safe from supplemental discipline, not because he isn’t penalized (that has nothing to do with supplemental discipline), but because the blow he strikes isn’t particularly forceful. It’s a dirty little shot, but the operative word is little. Ovechkin hops back up quickly and scores a goal shortly thereafter. He serves the justice himself.
Next up, the Dallas Stars’ Antoine Roussel managed to trip and high-stick Rinaldo in one move. Was it a slew foot?
The NHL rulebook defines slew footing as follows:
Slew-footing is the act of a player using his leg or foot to knock or kick an opponent’s feet from under him, or pushes an opponent’s upper body backward with an arm or elbow, and at the same time with a forward motion of his leg, knocks or kicks the opponent’s feet from under him, causing him to fall violently to the ice.
Match Penalty – Any player who is guilty of slew-footing shall be assessed a match penalty.
Fines and Suspensions – There are no specified fines or suspensions for slew-footing, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion.
Not only does Roussel high-stick Rinaldo, but Roussel also uses a distinct kicking motion to get underneath Rinaldo’s leg. On the other hand, the side angle indicates Roussel doesn’t apply much force to Rinaldo’s upper body and that even the stick contact is incidental. It’s a tripping penalty, no doubt, but the guess here is that Roussel gets off without supplemental discipline. It’s close, though.
Roussel does have a suspension in the past two years, which could make him a repeat offender under the collective bargaining agreement. Working in his favor, though, is that the previous suspension was for a different action. Roussel was suspended last February for cross-checking Adam McQuaid in the throat. The Department of Player Safety would be harsher on Roussel (in sentencing) had he committed the same type of act this time around. But since it was a slew foot this time, his past offense is less likely to have a major impact.
And lastly, we have the Blues’ Ryan Reaves catching the Los Angeles Kings’ Kopitar with what appears to be a butt end:
The angles aren’t perfect, but it appears Blues tough guy Reaves catches Kopitar with a butt end, or at the very least an elbow. The blow left the Kings’ star center bloodied and eventually forced him from the game.
Reaves doesn’t have a suspension on his record, but he’s far from out of the woods. This looked nothing like a hockey play, as the puck was nowhere near Kopitar. The narrative of a given incident matters to the Department of Player Safety, and the intent looks pretty malicious here. If Kopitar is forced to miss time with what is currently being labelled an upper-body injury, that could affect Reaves’ fate, too, but only if the DOPS decides the action is suspendable. If and when it does, a Kopitar injury would lengthen Reaves’ sentence, per rules of the CBA.
A busy night for the DOPS, that’s for sure. Staal is almost certainly safe. The Blues play Wednesday, so Reaves’ fate is priority No. 1.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin