Alexander Ovechkin was suspended 3 games yesterday for his illegal charge into Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek during Sunday's OT win again the Washington Capitals. I initially thought the number of games was low given that Ovechkin has been fined twice and suspended twice prior for his physical play.
It was good to see Brendan Shanahan give games at all to Ovechkin given the continuing lack of consistency in NHL supplemental discipline. The hit, the reaction, and why Ovechkin still hasn't learned anything all after the jump.
I think it's best to just put the suspension explanation video in here, which showcases the hit Ovechkin put on Michalek and the NHL Department of Player Safety's reasoning behind the suspension.
So, three games. I am happy that the NHL recognizes the hit was illegal and makes sure to point out that the launch, which classifies this hit as a Charge per Rule 42, is the primary problem here. Michalek's head is contacted and the NHL makes sure to also point out that Ovechkin is responsible for that contact because he intentionally launches himself into Michalek.
However the NHL continues to point at the lack of injury, or the result of the play, as something it takes into consideration. One of these days they will understand that the action, Ovechkin intentionally leaving his feet, is problem here. To say that the "lack of apparent injury" to Michalek has anything to do with the number of games Ovi receives is like saying that a DUI driver didn't kill anyone, so his driving under the influence wasn't as bad of a decision. The NHL has to address the motivation to launch, not the result of the play.
Additionally head contact was made and sometimes concussion/post-concussion symptoms take days to emerge. If Michalek can't play hockey next week due to massive headaches, does Shanahan tack on games for Ovechkin? No.
The NHL is not addressing these types of plays properly. The decision to act like that by the player, not the result of the action, should be the consideration here.
Ovechkin sat down with reporters today and discussed his suspension.
There are so many things wrong with his response to the suspension it's not even funny. He says:
- "All my career it's gonna be like that" - that to me signifies he has zero intent to change his reckless style of play
- "I don't think it was bad hit" - He is obviously unfamiliar with the rules regarding charging and also thinks the head contact was fine.
- "Yeah I jump but he don't get hurt" - acknowledges that he leaps on purpose, sees no problem with it. Also shows he thinks like the NHL does, that the result of his actions matter more than the actions themselves.
- "It's always gonna be hit in the head, it's always gonna be dirty plays" - He thinks that hockey is a game that will always involve head contact (and that's fine) and will be played dirty.
Alexander Ovechkin is the captain of a hockey team. He thinks Zbynek Michalek (who had very low momentum in comparison to Ovi's blazing speed into the leap) should "stand and hit back" in that situation. If Michalek does not brace for the hit as described by Shanahan, I don't want to know how much worse the result of that play would have been.
Ovechkin, as a "leader", should evaluate the style of play he employs at this point and make changes not just for himself but for the team he wears the C for. This is his fifth occurrance of supplemental discipline in only his sixth NHL season. Last season when Matt Cooke hit his fifth interaction with fines and suspension, he sat for 17 games. Instead Ovechkin plays the victim and points to the lack of discipline for Michalek, for his hit on Matt Hendricks in the same game, as the reason he should have not been suspended. There are a few reasons Z was not suspended.
- Michalek does not have the prior offender status that Ovechkin has
- Hendricks is very low on the play, trying to avoid most of the check. (Michalek does make head contact and that is what should matter tho.)
- Michalek was actually assessed a penalty on the play
I thought the play merited at least a fine if not a one game suspension regardless as did most of the rational hockey fans I spoke to. Looking at Ovechkin, the Captials organization and the reporters in the room use the lack of discipline for Michalek as a way to turn Ovechkin into the victim here makes me wish it even more.
In the end Alex Ovechkin still doesn't get it. He thinks launching himself into people is perfectly fine as long as no one gets hurt despite having no control over the outcome of his recklesss behavior. He still doesn't understand that the act of leaping into someone is against the rules of hockey. He thinks that penalties and suspensions are an even-up thing, dished out game to game. He got off light in this situation in my opinion. He needs to look at Matt Cooke's history and go "phew" instead of looking at the lack of action on Michalek and crying.