If you missed the first half hour of tonight's opening games, you missed everything. Separate incidents in Atlanta and Carolina will overshadow tonight's outcomes. Wysh already touched on Keith Ballard's tryout for the Florida Marlins earlier, but it will be Alex Ovechkin's(notes) knee-on-knee hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason(notes) that will dominate the discussion for the next while.
Here's video of the play courtesy of NHL.com:
Ovechkin was ejected after being assessed a 5-minute major for kneeing and game misconduct - his second in Washington's last three games. Ovechkin's hit on Gleason backfired and he wound up injuring his own knee in the collision, much like every time an opponent would attempt a head butt on the WWF's Junkyard Dog in the 1980's. Ovechkin was helped off the ice and didn't return. The Capitals said they would examine Ovechkin tomorrow to figure out the diagnosis.
After the game, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau didn't agree with the referees call on the hit.
From Canes Now:
He defended Ovechkin, and said he didn't think Ovechkin deserved to be ejected or, going forward, suspended by the league.
"Alex is trying to hit him," Boudreau said. "Gleason makes a pretty good move to the inside, and as he's moving, his leg comes out and he hits him."
Asked if Ovechkin stuck his stick out, Boudreau said, "It looked like he leaned with his shoulder."
Ovechkin has know been given two game misconducts in the last three games.
"I think if Gleason would have got up, I think it would have been a two-minute penalty," Boudreau said.
Colin Campbell, you're on call.
While the Capitals wait to hear how long they might be without their top player, it's time for Colin Campbell's "Wheel of Justice" to finally land on something other than "Superstar: Move Along" when he spins it to determine the punishment for Ovechkin. Ovechkin has been towing the line on questionable hits for a while now and has avoided any sort of supplemental discipline to this point. Now, with a second ejection in less than a week, the question shouldn't be "Will he or won't he?" but "How many games?".
Washington doesn't play again until Thursday, which means that the NHL has plenty of time to figure out how many games to make Ovechkin sit for. The League has been timid to suspend star players in the past, but seeing how Ovechkin is now a repeat offender in regards to game misconducts, they have no choice but to hand out a suspension. It wasn't as lazy of a hit like Georges Laraque's on Niklas Kronwall last week, but Ovechkin clearly leads with his right knee:
If Laraque's hit deserved five games from the NHL, how long should Ovechkin sit? Laraque had a prior record of suspensions, Ovechkin doesn't. But if the NHL wants to take a stand and prove they are really serious about eliminating dangerous hits from the game, the same punishment should be handed out. Part of Colin Campbell's reasoning for suspending Laraque was that his "actions were dangerous and caused a significant injury to his opponent." Kronwall will be out of Detroit's lineup for up to eight weeks and as we've seen in most cases, an injured player almost equals a suspension, unless your name is Mike Richards(notes) because the NHL has it in for the Flyers, right?
Knee-on-knee hits might as well be the starting point if the League isn't going to put its foot down when it comes to headshots. Making an example out of a star player would send a stronger message than using a fourth-liner to get the point across that these types of hit will not be tolerated. Right now star players have "get out of jail free" cards in the back pockets and fear no retribution from the NHL because of the League's actions in dealing with controversial plays in the past.
What could also play into a possible suspension for Ovechkin is any length of time he may miss if he is injured. If Ovechkin should be out for an extended period of time, how does the NHL handle that? Does he miss X number of games when he returns to the lineup? Is Ovechkin handed no games but given a heftier fine than the automatic $200 slap on the wrists any player gets when assessed a game misconduct? Or does the NHL decide that if he is to miss an extended period of time that would be better than announcing they've suspended one of its star players? It'll be interesting to see the timing of the announcements regarding Ovechkin's injury status and the NHL's decision on whether or not supplemental discipline will be handed out.
The NHL could finally take a big step forward in regards to its much-mocked disciplinary system or continue to look foolish in the eyes of its fans and the media.