Late in the second period of Thursday night’s Canucks game in Glendale, Arizona the Canucks were on the power-play when an unsuspecting Mike Smith left his net to play the puck in the trapezoid. What happened next will shock you! In fact there’s lots of shocking things about this play.
First off, it’s a bit of an uncharacteristic shot from Alex Edler – who generally plays more like a Lady Byng candidate than a thug. Secondly, it’s uncharacteristic of Mike Smith to hop back up after an opposition skaters makes contact with him, as opposed to doing his best Ryan Kelser impression and rolling around on the ice. Thirdly, Alex Edler was assessed a major for charging on the play, which I found kind of surprising.
Read past the jump.
Here’s what the NHL rulebook has to say about "charging" as it applies to goaltenders:
A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the Referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.
I don’t buy that Alex Edler was just trying to block the puck in anticipation of Mike Smith playing it along the boards. I also think it’s pretty hard to argue that Edler "made a reasonable effort to avoid" hitting Mike Smith. In fact, he appears to me to pick up a bit of speed leading into the hit.
That said, the NHL rule book, which allows the referee some discretion as to whether or not they assess a player a major or minor penalty for charging, stipulates that a charging penalty should only be a major if the "degree of violence" on the check warrants it. I don’t particularly think Edler’s check on smith was violent enough to pass that threshold, frankly.
Ultimately Alex Edler needs to do better to avoid contact with Mike Smith in this case, especially when his team is on the power-play. The penalty was a costly one for the Canucks too as the Coyotes later evened the game up with a power-play goal while Edler was still in the penalty box. While Edler brought this one on himself by being a bit careless, I can’t shake the feeling that a major penalty for this hit was a bit of a soft call.
Update: Mike Smith left the game in the third period and has been replaced by former Canuck and current ‘Yotes backup Jason Labarbera. According to Coyotes beat writer Sarah McLellan of AZCentral Mike Smith is being evaluated in the Coyotes dressing room.
#Coyotes say Smith is currently being evaluated.
— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) March 22, 2013