Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports
The Vancouver Canucks came out flying in the first period of Game 2.
Seizing control and setting a physical tone right from the get go, the Canucks received early goals from Daniel Sedin and Nick Bonino to give them a 2-0 lead over the Calgary Flames. Something happened on Higgins’ power-play marker though that could presumably, attract the attention of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
Let’s get into it.
On the play Nick Bonino fell to the ice in the slot, where he was cross-checked rather viciously by key Flames defenseman Kris Russel in the head area. You can see the play here:
It’s a play that, obviously, looks pretty similar to what Dustin Byfuglien was recently suspended four games for. The major difference, really, is that Byfuglien is exponentially more physically imposing than Russell, though there are a couple of subtle differences also.
While Miller is on his side, Byfuglien forcefully cross checks him in the back of the neck. This is cross-checking. Some measure of physicality in front of the net is common and acceptable, particularly when defenseman are trying to protect their goaltenders. In this case however Miller is defenseless and out of the play by the time Byfuglien initiates contact…. The threat of Miller getting another scoring chance clearly has passed and he’s ineligible to be hit in anyway. Byfuglien not only delivers an illegal blow but he does so with excessive force to an unprotected and vulnerable part of Miller’s body.
Most of that applies, it seems to me, although it should probably be noted that in this case the play wasn’t going the other way (as it was by the time Byfuglien cross-checked Miller) by the time Russell makes contact with Bonino. Still it’s impossible to argue that Bonino was a threat of getting another scoring chance, or that he’s eligible to be hit in that position.
It should also be noted that Russell has no prior history of supplemental discipline, as far as I can tell.
Bonino wasn’t hurt on the play and there was no penalty called, which is also similar to the Byfuglien cross-check. That said, considering the playoff exchange rate, don’t be surprised if Russell’s hit only warrants a fine or nothing at all.
Russell is logging huge minutes for the Flames, and also scored the game-winning goal in Game 1. If he’s out for any length of time, that would be a massive blow to the Flames.
What do you think?
UPDATE: According to multiple reports it would seem that – as we suspected – Russell will not be face a hearing or any sort of supplementary discipline for the cross-check:
As for Russell crosscheck on Bonino that has many wound up, as @FriedgeHNIC noted on broadcast, nothing expected in terms of supp discipline
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 18, 2015