Brad Marchand’s hit on Sami Salo is a clear cut case for Brendan Shanahan. Marchand, as has been discussed, was called for violating rule 44.1.
First of all, let’s have a look at a couple of examples that have been brought up as counter-evidence: the Hamhuis hit on Lucic in the Final and the Ballard hit on McGinn in the Conference Final. Both are similar hits, but both differ from the Marchand-on-Salo hit in two key ways: point of contact and (perhaps most importantly) player expectation.
"44.1 Clipping – Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent.
A player may not deliver a check in a “clipping” manner, nor lower his own body position to deliver a check on or below an opponent’s knees.
An illegal “low hit” is a check that is delivered by a player or goalkeeper who may or may not have both skates on the ice, with his sole intent to check the opponent in the area of his knees. A player may not lower his body position to deliver a check to an opponent’s knees."
Here’s the Hamhuis hit on Lucic:
(As has been well-documented, it was actually Hamhuis who came away with the injury, but that’s not important right now.) In this situation, Milan Lucic was carrying the puck up the boards, through the neutral zone. Dan Hamhuis moved to seperate Lucic from the puck using a hipcheck, which he’s done on occasion before. Lucic saw Hamhuis coming and would have been prepared for a hit of some kind. In fact, Lucic had tensed his body before contact in anticipation of a hard hit. He was skating a full stride and was leaning forward as a result. Because of his body angle, when Hamhuis moved to hit him, the contact becomes hip-on-hip.
Here’s the Ballard hit on McGinn, which has some similiarity to the Marchand hit. In this context, Jamie McGinn is pursuing a loose puck and Keith Ballard arrives just after McGinn gained control. It happens very fast, but even in the first image, we can see that McGinn is aware that Ballard is coming at him. He actually forgets about the puck and appears to brace himself for Ballard’s hit. Further, he appears to be aware that Ballard is coming in low.
McGinn has turned himself flush with the boards, probably hoping to deflect Ballard but also to give himself something to brace against. He’s in what coaches call ‘the ready position’ – straight back, bent knees. He’s ready to be physical.
Again, it’s very obvious where the contact is. Ballard is quite low, but so is McGinn. Ballard connects with McGinn’s thigh.
(Also note that we can see the puck in Ballard’s feet.)
Now on to the Marchand-Salo incident. Pass it to Bulis’ Harrison Mooney wrote a piece today looking at an event leading up to the hit that he thinks is worth considering.
Using that video clip, I pulled some stills for us to consider.
In this first image, you can see Marchand and Salo tied up at the bottom right. What Harrison points out is in the scuffle, Marchand actually throws two right hands at Salo, who is, it must be noted, expending a good amount of effort to impede Marchand. It’s basically hand bag stuff – Salo’s holding up Marchand after a puck battle at the boards (which Salo won) and Marchand’s hitting Salo in an apparent effort to loosen the Finn’s grip.
As we can see, Henrik is winding up to fire a shot, and the next frame shows that the puck eventually arrives on the sideboards. It is actually a nearly identical situation as the events which preceded the above image. The puck comes around the boards and Marchand and Salo both move to play the puck.
This first image shows us where the two players are focused. They are going for the puck. Salo’s probably more aware of Marchand’s position than Marchand is of Salo’s.
At this point, it looks like Marchand is going to get there first. He probably knows the penalty is about to expire and he’s probably thinking, ‘I need to get this puck out.’ Salos is straightening himself out to probably either prevent the clearance or at least have some body-to-body contact, as so often occurs when there’s a loose puck along the boards.
However, Marchand doesn’t do what most might expect. Perhaps he sees Daniel Sedin at the point and thinks, ‘there’s no way I’m risking a turnover’. Marchand today claimed that he saw Salo coming and thought ‘he was taking a run at me’. An interesting notion. To my knowledge, Sami Salo has never taken a run at anybody, but there you have it, Marchand is saying he feared for his safety. Anyway, instead of playing the puck up the boards, Marchand decides to engage physically with Salo. But instead of straightening up and going body-to-body, like Salo seems to be expecting, Marchand starts to go low, as if he’s going to duck under Salo.
Note the body positions. Unlike the Lucic hit or the McGinn hit, Salo is not bracing himself for a low hit. He’s anticipating body contact. From this high angle, it actually looks like Marchand is leaning down.
We can see that Marchand’s hip is roughly at Salo’s knee level. The puck’s in between them, but neither of them is anything close to being in possession.
The angle of the camera is above the dasher, probably rougly at Salo’s shoulder level. From this angle, it appears Marchand’s butt is at Salo’s calf. Tough to judge exactly, but we know Salo going to take the hit very low.
And so we are left with the aftermath. What must we consider? First, Marchand is making a play which is totally unexpected for the situation. Second, he’s a lot shorter: Marchand’s listed at 5’9", that’s probably generous; Salo is 6’3". That’s some 6 inches. Any hit he throws is going to be lower than most. Third, this won’t have been the first time Marchand has found himself with a big guy coming at him – has he really never dealt with this situation before? Why is his decision probably the most dangerous?
Remember, this was the second time in less than ten seconds that Marchand and Salo engaged physically. Marchand lost the puck battle then; perhaps he didn’t want to lose another. Whatever his motivation, his actions were pretty stupid.
If we are looking for a hit that should be really controversial and is a good comparison for yesterday’s hit, I offer the following:
Mason Raymond has the puck, apparently he figures he can duck Marchand. Even here, the contact looks to mostly be on the thigh. In any case, I doubt Brad Marchand was expecting Raymond to go low.