Bruins’ McAvoy Suspended for Game 1
By Marisa Ingemi
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If Charlie McAvoy’s hit on Josh Anderson in Game 6 truly was, as he described, a hockey play, that’s where the line for playoff hockey physicality has to be drawn.
McAvoy had a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety and will be suspended for Game 1 of the Boston Bruins’ upcoming series against the Carolina Hurricanes. That is reasonable for a head hit.
Officials whistled a two-minute minor near the end of the second period of the B’s 3-0 win over the Blue Jackets, instead of a major or ejection.
“I tried to finish my check in a legal manner,” McAvoy said. “I was penalized two minutes and I served it. I just came back and tried to be an impactful player. Fortunately enough it was in a winning effort and happy we’re going on to the next round.”
By the rule book, given the penalty called for contact to the head, the officials were correct in assigning a two-minute minor. There is a question whether the referees actually saw the play at all, after it was reported on the Blue Jackets’ radio broadcast they hadn’t.
Anderson was fine and returned to the game, and the rest of the contest was a focus on the game, not any revenge.
“I don’t want to start complaining about hits after the game,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “But ... if you watched the video of it, I don’t think there’s ... it’s pretty clear-cut to me.”
Maybe everyone involved was lucky that was the case, because a game with less meaning could have put McAvoy at risk for on-ice retribution; his return to the game -- especially if Anderson was hurt worse on the play -- surely would have created some consternation on the Blue Jackets’ end.
Rule 48 of the NHL rule book says only a minor can be called for a hit to the head -- not a major nor a game misconduct, with no provisions for either occurrence -- which sounds like a major flaw in the system.
Officials technically made the correct call, but an environment where sticking to the book instead of any human empathy or concern for danger isn’t safe for anyone.
In Game 6 of the Stars-Blues series in the Western Conference, Dallas goalie Ben Bishop took a slap shot off his collarbone and was down on the ice, writhing in pain. Play continued, as it should according to the rules, and the Blues scored.
Bishop, in a position where players are shooting the puck at his direction while he was in pain and potentially hurt, was lucky to come out of that in one piece. The argument shifted toward the angst that would occur if the goal had been wiped off the board, if play had been blown dead, simply because the rule book would be against it.
The Bruins won’t have McAvoy to open their next series, and it makes their path tougher. To make a big check like that at the point in the game he did, with 20 seconds to go in the second with a 1-0 lead, wasn’t the appropriate time or place from a hockey standpoint.
“It was a hockey play,” McAvoy maintained. “I had my elbow tucked. I was hitting through him.”
But from a player safety standpoint, there has to be a precedent of taking injury risk more seriously than the results. Continuing to allow the physicality of playoff hockey as an excuse makes it unsafe for everyone involved.