October 11 2011 08:49AM
Mid-way through the second period of Monday night's game between the Canucks and the BlueJackets - Mark Methot tagged Henrik Sedin, was called for boarding and it's possible he'll hear from the NHL's office of player safety as a result. The league has prioritized the enforcement of "a more stringent standard with respect to boarding," and boarding (rule 41) along with hits to the head (rule 48) were the two major rules that were altered this summer. Here's the Methot hit, courtesy The Score:
The Methot hit was, as I see it, a less malicious carbon-copy of the hit Ben Eager threw at Daniel Sedin in the Western Conference Final. It was less malicious for a few reasons: firstly Methot is not a dirty player (this is based on my admittedly limited experience, but I've watched him play well over 10 games at this point). Secondly, whereas Ben Eager came off the bench and went directly for Daniel as a way of retaliating for the Bieksa-Marleau fight, Methot is just finishing his check. Thirdly, Methot doesn't "drive through the point of contact" in the same way that Eager did, he eased up somewhat.
The Ben Eager hit on Daniel was used as an example of illegal boarding in the Rules and Regulations video that Shanahan sent out to players in mid-September. There's no way around it - this hit by Methot was a bad hit, and an illegal play. The only question remaining is: does Methot deserve supplementary discipline?
The new boarding rules stipulate that, "the onus is the player applying the check to ensure that [their opponent] is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact." On this point I think Methot is vulnerable to the wrath of the Shanaban hammer. Though Henrik does turn somewhat, you'd have a tough time convincing me that he turns towards the boards "immediately prior to or simultaneously" with the hit. It's hard to argue that Methot couldn't have done more to "minimize contact."
On the other hand, Methot definitely doesn't drive through the point of contact - he tries to stop his momentum somewhat after the initial hit. Sure, Henrik has already gone dangerously into the boards by then, but it could've been a lot worse for the Canucks captain if Methot had "finished" that check.
I won't be outraged if Methot's only punishment is the two minutes he received, but he probably does deserve a short suspension. Methot's hit on Henrik was of a particularly dangerous variety that the NHL has singled out as wanting to rid from the game. Methot had time to bail out of a hit on a defenseless player, and it looks to me like he was a split second late arriving at that conclusion. The fact that Methot slowed up right after making contact suggests to me that this hit was without malice, but it's not about intent here, it's about improving player safety by fundamentally altering the way players approach contact with their opponents.