Niklas Kronwall Tossed, But Was It the Right Call?

Harrison Oztemel@@harrisonoztemelContributor IMay 23, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 22:  Martin Havlat #24 of the Chicago Blackhawks checked hard to the ice by Niklas Kronwall #55 of the Detroit Red Wings during the first period of Game Three of the Western Conference Championship Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 22, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jim Prisching/Getty Images)

We have seen big hits like this before in the playoffs, ones that heat up the intensity and lively up the building, but the outcome of last night's hit from Niklas Kronwall on Martin Havlat added a different factor that arguably cost the Red Wings the game.

In the middle of the opening period in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals, Detroit's Kronwall pinched along the boards and delivered a crushing body check on Chicago's Havlat.  The result?  A five-minute major penalty for interference and a game misconduct for Kronwall and a trip to the locker room for Havlat.  

After watching a hit like this, the immediate reaction is, "is Havlat alright" and "I want to see that again!"  The CBC network did a good job of showing the hit from multiple and angles and provided good analysis of the hit and the reputation of Kronwall to deliver such hits.

The announcers repeatedly were saying that "no arms went up" in reference to the referees, yet a major penalty and a game misconduct were handed out. 

After watching this video several times, it becomes clear that this in fact is a clean hit and should not have been dealt with in the manner it did. 

Havlat had his head up and looked directly in the direction of Kronwall before attempting to play the puck, and because he did what every hockey player knows to do, he lost sight of the puck and had to look at his feet to find it.  

Kronwall is no novice when it comes to pinching at the point, so when a experienced player sees the opposing player go for a loose puck with his head up, the defender knows to pinch in and take the body. 

It is no fault of Kronwall that Havlat lost the puck in his feet and should not have been penalized for what the referees call "being in a vulnerable position."

According to the Official NHL Rulebook, an interference penalty is not included in fouls that can result in a game misconduct or a major penalty.  Fouls that call for a major penalty and misconduct are said to arise when the player causes facial or head injuries as a result of "Charging, Boarding, and Elbowing."

Since neither of those penalties were called, then there was no official reason for Kronwall to be ejected and penalized.

It is clear from video of the hit that Kronwall has one foot on the ice at contact point, and he leads with his shoulder and makes contact with Havlat with his shoulder, all positions approved by the NHL.  

The problem the Red Wings organization has with the call is the penalty assessed, interference, and when and who the call was made by.  Video of the hit shows that at no time did a referee or linesman raise his arm to indicate a penalty, and a linesman, who only has the power to call major penalties, made the final ruling. 

The call of interference can be argued because Havlat had intention to play the puck, which was sitting directly between his skates.  No interference call should have been.

This year and in 2006, RJ Umberger had been the victim of hits similar to this, and in both cases, no penalty was assessed. 

Umberger, like Havlat, looked up out of the defensive zone at the oncoming defenseman (Brad Stuart in these playoffs and Brian Campbell in 2006) and played the puck before contact.  Comparing these hits to the one last night, it is clear that the officials made the incorrect call.

The five-minutes of penalty time proved to be very costly for the Red Wings, as for 1/20 of the game, the Wings were held to play only defense.  At the end of the second period, during a five-minute span, Detroit scored three unanswered goals to tie the game.

Those five-minutes could have resulted in one or two goals for the Wings, but instead they were stuck in their own zone.

It is pretty safe to say that given the time to look over the various videos of the hit that no further suspensions or fines will be handed out to the Red Wings organization or Kronwall, and perhaps in time, the Blackhawks will accept the gracious five-minutes of power play and arguably Game Three.


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