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Canucks’ Virtanen shoves head of Hurricanes’ Nordstrom into boards on dirty play

Canucks sophomore Jake Virtanen threw a good hit on Joakim Nordstrom, but followed it up by forcing the Hurricanes winger’s head into the boards.
via Sportsnet/YouTube

via Sportsnet/YouTube

Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen made a name for himself during his rookie campaign by playing with an edge to his game and his feisty play even managed to land him in hot water during his freshman season.

Late in the season, Virtanen was suspended two games after he delivered a head shot to then-San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety ruled that the “extreme lateness and the predatory nature of the hit” made it worthy of supplemental discipline. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Department of Player Safety rings up Virtanen and gives him a warning, at the very least, for blatantly shoving the head of Carolina Hurricanes winger Joakim Nordstrom into the boards.

The play in question came during the third period of the Canucks’ 4-3 overtime win over the Hurricanes. As Nordstrom carried the puck up and out of the Carolina zone, he was knocked off stride by Virtanen and sent into the boards. There’s no issue with that. It’s Virtanen’s play afterwards — in which he literally puts his palm against Nordstrom’s head and thrusts it towards the boards — that will have some seeking at least a fine for Virtanen:

That Virtanen immediately looks up and at the referee is probably enough to let you know that he believes he got away with one. What worked in Virtanen’s favor during the contest was that Nordstrom popped right back up and was able to continue in the contest without any further injury, and it’s entirely possible that Virtanen escapes the entire incident without any supplemental discipline heading his way.

The play itself was reckless and dangerous, and it’s something that will no doubt have the Department of Player Safety watching Virtanen closely over the next handful of games, but that the referees saw fit to let it slide could very well mean that the league chooses to do the same. 

And though the play could have had the potential for injury and would have been much, much worse had Nordstrom suffered a knock from Virtanen’s actions, it’s worth remembering that the Department of Player Safety doesn’t take injury, or lack thereof, into account when deciding if a suspension or hearing should be doled out. Rather, injury only comes into play in determining a suspension’s length.

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