Just over 12 minutes into Washington's game against Chicago Sunday, Alex Ovechkin was given a five-minute major for boarding Brian Campbell and a game misconduct.
My initial reaction was the same as Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury's, that it was an overreaction and not worthy of that severe a penalty. My second reaction was Ovechkin's play was similar to what Montreal's Maxim Lapierre did to San Jose's Scott Nichol recently. Lapierre's "hit" - more a push into the boards - earned him a four-game suspension.
McGuire suggested a double-minor for Ovechkin's play, which is kind of odd, because we never see double minors for anything but high sticking penalties.
Darren Pang wrote a column earlier this season that "pushing" should become a penalty, for plays like this. It's not quite a boarding play and it's not exactly a hit, but when a player shoves an off-balance opponent from behind into the boards, he can cause serious injury. The player is vulnerable and defenseless, and both Nichol and Campbell left the game with injuries.
Now, time for Colin Campbell to spin his wheel again. He cited consistency for not suspending Matt Cooke for his hit on Marc Savard - a ruling which, if you take emotion out of it, made some sense, except it didn't make common sense and was still wrong - so it'll be interesting to see if Ovechkin hears from Colin Campbell.
Assuming the precedent was set with the Lapierre ruling, Ovechkin should be suspended. Earlier this season, Ovechkin was banned two games for a knee-to-knee hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason. Given the quirkiness of the NHL, I don't know if knee collisions get the same treatment as boarding penalties, so I don't know if Ovechkin is technically a repeat offender in this case. Cooke wasn't for his hit on Savard despite being suspended once before this season for a hit to the head of the Rangers' Artem Anisimov. I felt that history would've sealed Cooke's fate, but the league seemed to rule that a shoulder (Savard) saved Cooke, who used his elbow against Anisimov.
But we'll see. Ovechkin's push didn't seem as bad as Lapierre's - Ovechkin's hit seemed a little more from the side compared to Lapierre, who didn't even get a minor penalty for his play - but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. It all depends on how Colin Campbell feels in the morning.