Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau went on record this morning after today's very optional practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex that Marc Staal's hit on Mike Green -- just before Alex Ovechkin's goal late in the second period of Sunday's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers -- was a dirty hit and targeted Green's head, only three games returned from a lengthy absence due to concussion symptoms from another elbow blow, that one from Rangers rookie forward Derek Stepan.
Here's what the coach had to say about it:
“It was to the side of the head and it was a dirty shot. I hope the league looks at it. Let’s face it, I’m listening to all the experts last night on the [Raffi] Torres hit on [Brent] Seabrook, they’re all saying there’s no puck. It’s not a hockey play. The guy’s in a vulnerable position and he hits the head. That’s exactly what we’re trying to get out of the league.
And Staal comes in, there’s no puck, he takes his arm, he swings it at [Green’s] head, but it’s all forgotten because we score a goal to tie the game up. But it shouldn’t be forgotten and it wasn’t the only time they targeted Mike’s head. They targeted it a few times. That’s what we want to get out of the game.”
There's a lot of rhetoric from coaches during the playoffs. Boudreau's comments earlier this morning about MSG not being as loud as Verizon Center and being dilapidated probably deserved to be filed under that category.
But re-watch the video of Ovechkin's goal.
First, Ovechkin is clearly and deliberately tripped around the blue line and a very clear expletive is captured.
But at the 0:10 mark, Green distributed the puck, then Staal clearly hits Green in the head with his elbow. Green seemed to sense the hit was coming but was unable to avoid the collision. Green got up to join the goal celebration, but Boudreau is right in one thing: these are the hits the league needs to legislate out of the game.
Maybe Staal wasn't targeting Green's head on the hit and that's just where his elbow ended up. But it sure looks to me like Staal purposefully stuck his elbow out to strike Green in the head. You can hear Doc Emrick say "He's hurt," referring to Green, as Ovechkin beats Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.
Considering Green got up and continued to play in the game, if there's even a review of the play I'd be shocked of there was any punishment for this play. But considering Green missed a quarter of the season with a head injury and a player on the Rangers -- the same team that caused the injury in the first place -- targeted his head in just Green's third game back, a review is completely warranted.
It's exactly plays like these that the league made a very public display of apparent serious concern about earlier this season. Until these plays are treated the same way plays in which the player sustains injury are, consider the NHL's policy nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell.
Regardless of the league's review of this play, the Caps need to take matters into their own hands.
The Rangers had the better of the physical play Sunday all around, including instigating contact on goalie Michal Neuvirth anytime they had the chance, with no repercussions whatsoever. Sure, the refs "warned" the Rangers to avoid contacting the goalie, but there were no calls. Why stop if there's no penalty for doing it?
If the referees aren't going to penalize the Rangers for these plays, then someone on the Caps needs to step up and protect his goalie, but do it smartly. I'm not calling for vigilante justice for a Caps player to injure someone on the Rangers. But you gotta fight fire with fire, and Lundqvist needs to be bumped once or twice early on Wednesday, just to let him know that Caps are there.
And Mike Green better keep his head up. Because like I said, if there's no penalty, they aren't going to stop.