At 5:26 of the third period on Wednesday night, Brendan Smith of the Detroit Red Wings drilled Ben Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks with a check to the head, earning a match penalty. Smith on Smith crime … is nothing sacred?
The hit came just about four minutes after Ben Smith scored his first of the preseason to tie the preseason game, which the Blackhawks eventually won, 4-3, on a Marian Hossa power-play goal. Ben Smith was down on the ice for several seconds before being helped off. Said Coach Joel Quenneville after the game (via Adam Jahns):
"Both referees said that's a classic example of what we're talking about, that's the illegal hit. It's pretty black and white."
Well, that'll be for Brendan Shanahan and the NHL player safety monks to decide, and here's the language of the rule they'll apply to it:
"A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was unavoidable, can be considered."
The bolded portion makes this a fascinating ruling, because the initial angle of the hit appears to show Ben Smith attempting to cut inside of Brendan Smith's check and skate to the goal. Brendan Smith then puts a shoulder square into his noggin. Did he place himself in a vulnerable position, or is Brendan Smith checking him in the head either way?
The injury, the outrage and the fact that it does all come back to personal responsibility for the hitter likely means Brendan Smith gets a stout multi-game suspension. But we're interested in seeing how Professor Shanahan diagrams this one on the justification video.
UPDATE: Ben Smith will undergo concussion tests on Thursday. Said teammate Jonathan Toews: "If it was a cheap hit, hopefully they take care of that the right way. It's unbelievable. They're cracking down, and it's still happening."