One night after receiving just a minor penalty for drilling an unsuspecting opponent headfirst into the boards, Roman Polak of the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn’t lucky when he did the same thing Wednesday night.
Polak took a major penalty and game misconduct, and possible supplemental discipline, when he hit Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings in the first period of Wednesday night’s game. The funny thing is, the hit that earned him a minor penalty the night before for a hit on Mike Santorelli of the Anaheim Ducks looked worse than the one that got him kicked out against the Kings.
Take a look at both hits. First the one Tuesday night on Santorelli that led to a fight with Ducks defenseman Josh Manson:
Now take a look at the hit on Toffoli:
To these eyes, the hit on Toffoli, while dangerous, looks a lot less cut-and-dried than the hit on Santorelli. On the Santorelli hit, Polak drills a vulnerable player right in the numbers from behind seemingly with no regard for his safety. Santorelli clearly has his back turned to Polak, who makes no attempt to let up on the hit.
The hit on Toffoli, meanwhile, was a lot more innocuous. As Toffoli wins the race for the puck, he holds up and turns his back to Polak, who then hits him from behind. The biggest decision for the department of player safety will be whether or not Polak had already committed to delivering the hit before Toffoli turned his back to Polak.
You could certainly make the case that Polak intended to deliver a clean check to Toffoli along the boards before Toffoli put himself in a vulnerable position when he pulled up. Whether it was a good hockey play gone wrong or a reckless hit on a vulnerable player will be up to the NHL discipline czars to decide. The hit came in the last minute of the first period and after being helped off the ice, Toffoli came out for the second period.
The guessing here is that Polak probably won’t be suspended for the hit and the league will decide that the major penalty will have sufficed. You could debate whether or not Polak deserved a major penalty and game misconduct, which is exactly the same debate you could have had 24 hours earlier.