The Blackhawks Thursday night’s game against the Capitals was pretty fun because Chicago beat a good team. It was a back and forth affair that went into overtime and unfortunately had to be settled by a shootout. That was what everyone came away with, but there was one incident that marred the victory.
Derek King is helping the team win, just look to last night, and the offence has been an issue. However, even if the defence has begun to step up, an injury overshadowed all that. Early in the second period, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy was levelled by a massive hit from Alex Ovechkin.
There was no call on the play, but Connor Murphy left the game and never returned. At the time, the assumption was that it was a clean hit. I didn’t agree then and I don’t agree now. Just because the principal point of contact isn’t the head doesn’t mean it’s a “clean” hit.
Player safety has to be a priority for the league. The league has cracked down on headshots, slashing, and cross-checking. Charging should be added to that list.
The league didn’t say it would look into it, but from the vantage point on my couch, it looked like a bad hit. To be specific, it looked like a clear Charge, but as I said, there was no call on the ice. I think charging should be handled like high-sticking, a two-minute minor for the infraction, and a more substantial penalty if the player is injured. The rule book allows for all of this already, but it needs to be enforced.
For the sake of discussion, the rule on charging, Rule 42 in the NHL’s book, defines charging as follows
"42.1 Charging – A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates, 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."
In my opinion, Ovechkin’s hit on Murphy fits that definition. You can see the video for yourself…
Murphy collects the puck and begins skating out of the defensive zone looking for someone to pass to. Ovechkin sees him and takes, depending on how you count them, four or five strides to build speed before checking Murphy into the boards. Nothing about what Washington’s captain did appear to have any intention of merely separating Murphy from the puck. In case anyone was wondering about a situation where charging was called and disciplined, Mark Scheifelle was suspended for four games for a charge on Jake Evans of the Montreal Canadiens last year.
Ovechkin simply appeared to want to line Murphy up for a big hit. It was an ugly hit for the sake of throwing an ugly hit. Even if Ovechkin wasn’t intentionally trying to injure Murphy, it still counts as a charge. I don’t care how much of a fan you are, this kind of hit isn’t something to cheer for.
This won’t be revisited by the league, but it should have been called on the ice. It fits the definition of rule 42 simply because of the distance Ovechkin had to travel to deliver the hit. Murphy’s absence will hurt the team defensively, which isn’t good while Chicago tries to push back up the standings. Hopefully, Murphy has a speedy recovery and no lingering effects from his concussion.