Let me preface this by saying that I only saw highlights of Ovechkin's hit on ESPN and TSN.ca this morning. I was at a wedding yesterday that managed to suck all the hockey out of my New Year's Day.
But reading the recaps and articles on Alex Ovechkin's hit on former Capital Jamie Heward, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of punishment is heading Ovi's way. No penalty was assessed on the play at the time and the league is reviewing the hit.
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet didn't think the hit was premetetated. "It's a tough one because consistently they're calling anything [involving] heads, a blow to the head," Tocchet told reporters following the game. "I don't think Ovechkin intentionally was trying to hurt him and be dirty. We were just asking if he left his feet a little bit."
Ovechkin was following the puck around the boards and Heward was in front of him. Whether the puck had stopped along the dashers or if Heward was trying to get it back to behind his own goal is uncertain as the action was against the near boards and you couldn't really see what happened puck-wise. Heward turned hunched over trying to play the puck, Ovi didn't play the puck but went for the hit. Heward's head was crunched between Ovechkin and the boards. He then laid motionless on the ice as trainers rushed to help.
The hit, looked innocent enough. Except for the fact that Heward was on the ice in a heap. It didn't look to me that Ovi left his feet, but he definitely went for the hit. With the NHL cracking down on head hits, should Ovechkin be facing punishment?
In my opinion, sure. Ovechkin's hit was unintentional, but Ovi is not above the game. If we are talking about Doug Weight facing punishment for his hit on Brandon Sutter, then how can we not bring up the fact that Ovi might face a fine as well. Do I expect Ovi to miss games? No, but a fine could be in order.
I don't really thing Alex Ovechkin or Jamie Heward did anything wrong, it is hockey and hard, physical hitting is apart of the game. So are injuries. Ovechkin is also known for his physical side, just ask the plethra of defenseman that have battled for a puck in the corner against Ovi. And sometimes that hit can hurt, just like Chris Pronger's monster hits on smaller forwards or Scott Stevens hitting anybody, star or not.
But I do think that players need to think twice when they go for a hit. To hit with respect if you will. Players need to recognize when the opposing player is more vunerable to an injury before they smash their head into the boards. I am not saying that is going to be easy, especially with the speed of the game where it is.
Capitals move on from here and keep their monster 12 point lead on the southeast division. Not the 21 point lead that Tarik reported on. A math major he is not. Caps start the home stand on a good note, but two very tough teams come to the phone booth in the Rangers and Flyers.
Peerless brings up an intersting point too.
Photo AP, Luis M. Alvarez