Ovechkin’s hit has been a topic of hot debate amongst fans and the media, with the question being: Will Ovechkin be suspended?
The NHL has been inconsistent with the way it has handled player discipline in the 2012 playoffs. Driving a player’s head into the glass warrants only a fine, while certain body checks can result in one-, two-, three- or even 25-game suspensions.
The NHL takes a number of factors into consideration when deciding how to discipline a player. I believe those factors will lead the NHL to the decision not to suspend Ovechkin for his hit on Girardi.
Right or wrong, the NHL will likely assess Ovechkin’s hit in the following manner.
It was clearly a charge, as Ovechkin left his feet to deliver the check. The appropriate call was made on the ice, a two-minute minor for charging.
It was not a blindside hit—Ovechkin and Girardi were facing one another leading up to the hit.
It was not a late hit, it was a reactionary play; Ovechkin was defending himself.
The initial point of contact was with Girardi’s shoulder, not his head.
It was not malicious in nature—Ovechkin attempted to play the puck with his skate immediately prior to the hit, meaning he didn’t have Girardi lined up. It doesn’t appear as though Ovechkin was targeting Girardi’s head.
The NHL will also take into consideration the victim’s injuries and the perpetrator’s history.
Dan Girardi was not injured by the hit and continued to play the rest of the game. However irrational it may seem, this is often a deciding factor for the NHL when considering how long to suspend a player. They focus more on the victim’s injuries, rather than the action itself.
Ovechkin is a repeat offender who has been suspended multiple times by the NHL. However, that’s not likely to sway Brendan Shanahan to suspend him.
The NHL will conclude that the hit was a reactionary play, and since Girardi wasn’t hurt, then no harm, no foul. Ovechkin may receive a phone call from Mr. Shanahan, but it will likely include a warning and, at the most, a fine.