Ovechkin Gets Two Game Suspension for Campbell Hit

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, March 15, 2010 | , , | 1 comments »

Washington Capitals star forward Alex Ovechkin was given a two-game suspension by NHL discipline czar Collin Campbell today, according to reports, for his hit on Brian Campbell in Sunday's nationally televised gaem against the Chicago Black Hawks.

Reports out of Chicago indicate Campbell has a broken clavicle and ribs.

In the crazy, mixed up world of hockey justice, hits like those meted out by Mike Richards, Matt Cooke and most recently, Steve Downie on Sidney Crosby, don't merit suspension.  

Recently, Maxim LaPierre received four games for a hit from behind, but the plays, while similar, were not equal and the penalties reflected that.

But Ovechkin's hit, while late, paled in comparison to the previous ones mentioned, yet not only received a game misconduct, but two-game suspension as well.

This is Ovechkin's second suspension of the season, and one wonders how much that factored into the decision.  He was punished for a boarding call against Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta and a knee-to-knee hit against Carolina's Tim Gleason.

Ovechkin was considered a "repeat offender" in the decision, one that could potentially haunt the Capitals as the season progresses toward the playoffs.

I love Ovechkin as much as the next guy, but at some point he has to acknowledge that he's bringing this attention onto himself.  The hit against Campbell, while not being egregious, was late and while Campbell was in an awkward position.  It's unfortunate about the extent of Campbell's injury, and one must assume that those injuries played into the decision for the suspension.

But the very fact that plays like this can warrant a suspension, yet head shots like Richards' and Cooke's, both of which inflicted severe injury as well, do not, speaks to a larger problem for the NHL.

Due to the gray area in the rules, headhunting is not reprimanded, where a push in the back, on a routine hockey play, however unfortunate, merits suspension.  Tough call to make.  Even tougher to justify it.

Nicklas Backstrom scored on an end-to-end rush, before getting creamed in the slot, in overtime to finish off a tremendous comeback for the Washington Capitals. The 4-3 win over the Chicago Black Hawks gives the Caps 46 wins and 101 points for the season.

Trailing 3-0 at the start of the third period, Washington scored three times in 2:16, as Chicago coughed up its second three-goal third period lead in as many days.  The Caps outshot the Black Hawks 11-1 in the third.

Backstrom made a terrific defensive play in his own end, making up for an earlier mistake, then carried the puck the length of the ice before beating Antii Niemi cleanly, then getting smashed up after the shot.

The super Swede also had the middle goal of the trifecta in the third.  Brooks Laich (22) tallied on a power play to start the comeback and Eric Fehr notched his 18th to tie the game and send it to overtime.

And while everyone should be talking about the Caps determination and perserverance in this one to take two points against a very good team in a tough building, all anyone is going to be talking about is, once again, Alex Ovechkin's "recklessness".

At 12:16 of the first period, Ovechkin was forechecking against Chicago's Brian Campbell.  Ovechkin hit Campbell behind the goal after he'd played the puck, hitting him in the shoulder/upper back area.  Campbell went down hard--shoulder first--into the end boards and Ovechkin fell over top of him.  Campbell laid on the ice for several moments, was attended to by a trainer, and did not return to the game.

Ovechkin was assessed a boarding major and game misconduct.

The play warrented a penalty; the hit/shove was late and unnecessary in my book, and Campbell went hard into the boards.  But the game misconduct, and the subsequent mandatory review by league officials, was overboard.

The game announcers, as well as studio hosts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury, all thought the game misconduct was uncalled for as well.

There is no automatic suspension, as this major comes far enough after the previous one to not trigger the automatic suspension.  But given Ovechkin's track record (murky enough, at this point), the injury to Campbell (which we don't know the severity of it yet) and the fact that it happened on national television, one can't help but wonder if the Great 8 isn't going to miss some ice time in the near future.

The league's disciplinary arm, led by Collin Campbell, has been taking it hard lately.  The incident with Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke not receiving discipline on his blatent elbow to the head of unsuspecting Boston forward Marc Savard will only boost the call for further discipline on Ovechkin.

So the Caps were badly outplayed by Chicago in the first two periods, lost their leader to a questionable call by the on-ice officials, and stormed back to tie--then win--in one of the league's tougher buildings.  It's enough to give Caps fans palpitaions.

So might Collin Campbell's decision for further discipline against one of the games' brightest stars.

But what can't be debated here is Ovechkin's poor judgment on the play. 

Chicago's Campbell had already played the puck and had his back to Ovechkin.  Ovie has to know only bad things can happen if you hit a player from behind into the boards. 

And with the league's ambiguity and haphazard manner of discipline, someone as important to his team as Ovechkin is can't be putting himself in a position to make a bad hit like that.  He needs better judgment on that play.

He was quoted after his earlier suspension for the kneeing hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason that he only knows how to play one way and he wasn't going to change.  He needs to rethink the logic in that staement and start to make better judgments about when--and how--to play physical.

Because with the scattershot justice system in place in the NHL, you never know.  Something as innocuous as this hit--if it happened in the playoffs--might turn out to keep him off the ice when his team needs him the most.