November 04, 2010
Joe Thornton(notes) of the San Jose Sharks was ejected from his team's game against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night for this check on David Perron(notes) in the second period. Take a look at the hit and the Logan Couture(notes) vs. Alex Pietrangelo(notes) bout that followed:
Was it a "lateral or blind side hit" where the head was "targeted or the principle point of contact," as the rule states?
There will be those who see his neutral-zone pick after exiting the penalty box as the kind of needlessly injurious play the NHL's trying to legislate out of the game. And there will be those who see a 6-4 guy hitting a 6-0 guy who needed to be more aware while trying for the puck; a hit that, in previous seasons, may have earned 2 minutes or nothing at all.
A literal interpretation of Rule 48 does lead credence to the idea that this was deserving of a five minute major penalty. While the hit was far from a blindside hit, it definitely toes the line between being a lateral hit versus one that comes head on.
Thornton is exiting the box from the side of Perron at about a forty five degree angle, which isn't lateral according to the body positioning of both players, but is lateral according to the head positioning of both players-- with Thornton exiting the box, the argument for assessing a major is that head positioning might take precedence here considering Perron didn't have the ability to see Thornton coming, something that Thornton was able to see from the time he exited the box to the time he made contact with Perron.
Perron would return and score the eventual game-winning goal less than 10 minutes later in the St. Louis Blues' 2-0 victory.
Let's just end any suspension talk now, because we don't believe this rises to that standard of enforcement. But as an in-game penalty ... the rule's the rule. He made contact with the noggin on a hit that Perron didn't see coming. If we want head-shots out of the NHL, that's going to have to be a gamer.