Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kronwall hits Kesler, Canucks Prevail

Quite the interesting game in Vancouver tonight.  With two tough tests in Minnesota and Detroit after a cross-country continent 12 day road trip, the Canucks passed two big early season tests.  On Wednesday night they defeated Detroit 4-2 and gave the Red Wings defense fits with their speed.

The game was not without controversy however, as Nicklas Kronwall delivered one of his patented hits on Ryan Kesler late in the game, which took a near penalty-free affair into a chippy night of hockey. 

Canucks fans were upset to see there was no penalty call on the play, except a two-minute minor to Kesler.  It should have been a minor penalty for charging at the very least, and the NHL may very well be lucky that Kesler wasn't seriously hurt on the play.

Let's review the rulebook for Charging:

Rule 42 - Charging
42.1 Charging - A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or 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.

 Seems pretty clear that Kronwall left his feet before impact - even the Detroit announcers in the video agree.

Moments later, Jannik Hansen drove to the net short-handed and was pushed ever so slightly into Jimmy Howard.  Alex Edler poked in the rebound and the goal was allowed to stand.    This one could have gone either way.  Some argued that Zetterberg nudged Hansen and it was a good hockey play, while others (like Jimmy Howard) would argue that it's blatant goaltender interference.

Given that the Canucks found themselves shorthanded after an overly aggressive hit, the referees probably owed them one.  In fact, despite Jimmy Howard's ambush of Jannik Hansen after the play, you could argue the Canucks were stiffed there as well, as they didn't receive a power play the entire evening.

From the Red Wings' perspective, the fourth goal is a tough pill to swallow, but they did get away with subtle interference on their first goal, when Bertuzzi shoved Salo into Roberto Luongo.

All in all, it was a hell of a hockey game between two skilled teams.  Kesler admitted after the game that he should have kept his head up, but believes that Kronwall should answer the bell.  I tend to agree on both counts.

The problem the NHL fans - whether in Vancouver or Detroit - should have with this game is the poor officiating with regards to player safety.  When a contentious hit like Kronwalls changes the tone of the game, the officials did not penalize Kronwall, and did not allow Kronwall to answer the bell, intervening and separating Kronwall and Kesler.  This creates a lot of tension in the game and a situation where the Canucks are going to go after the Red Wings talented players to obtain a measure of justice.

You can debate whether or not that's right or wrong, but when the officials fail to punish the offender, or to let the players sort it out themselves then and there, it creates these tit for tat situations.

Later in the game, Kevin Bieksa did hit Valterri Filppula with a similar (albeit cleaner) hit, and Ryan Kesler delivered a knee on knee hit to Zetterberg that could have been penalized.

While a lot of the media and even some within the NHL would like to put the onus on the players, or the equipment manufacturers, some simple alterations to game management could make a world of difference.

1 comment:

  1. Good points all around. As the NHL is attempting to make the game safer and cleaner, including having Shanahan come down hard on the head hunting, the Kronwall hit was an obvious charging penalty which should have come with a minor. Consistency regarding game management is a must!