Ovechkin’s hit from behind on Brian Campbell

I saw this hit while I was watching the Capitals-Blackhawks game earlier this afternoon, and Puck Daddy did some quick work and got the video online right after the game.

Campbell skates back into his own zone to pick up a dump in, when Alex Ovechkin races in and hits Campbell from behind. It’s pretty clear that A.O makes contact with Brian Campbell on the numbers of his jersey. Ovechkin was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct – which is Ovechkin’s third game misconduct on the year, which leads all NHL players.

As Wyshynski articulated, A.O will have to be suspended by in the NHL, because of the statutes in the League rulebook about hits from behind:

23.5 Fines and Suspensions – Stick Infractions, Boarding and Checking from Behind Category – In regular League games, any player or goalkeeper who incurs a total of two (2) game misconduct penalties for stick-related infractions, Boarding – Rule 42, or Checking from Behind – Rule 44, shall be suspended automatically for the next League game of his team. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty, the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game.

As we’ve seen in the past (Malkin in the Stanley Cup Finals), the League hates to sit its star players. I can’t imagine that the NHL will suspend Ovechkin for more than a game or two. I won’t come out and condemn this hit outright, like I did with Matt Cooke’s nasty headshot on Marc Savard, but I do think it’s poor judgement on Ovechkin’s part. Campbell turns before the hit a little bit, sure, but it’s clear that Alex pushes and fully extends his arms right into the back of Campbell. It’s a hit from behind and a text book boarding call – and it’s worthy of a suspension.

The debate on SBNation’s Capitals blog, Jasper’s Rink, is seriously interesting – Caps fans are really going both ways on this hit:

“Big Caps fan and season ticket holder—-but I have to be honest here –

Ovechkin is a stupid player. He is costing his team with his foolish play. Trust me – he is going to get a 3 to 5 game suspension, which will cost him the goal scoring title, but moreover he is gaining a reputation which will hurt the CAPS.

Ovechkin is talented — but really stupid. Caps won’t win a cup with this guy playing as he is. He must tone it down.” {Dougeb}

I’ve always maintained at the very least, Alex Ovechkin plays a risky game, and if he keeps up this pace, he’ll quickly find himself with a myriad of nagging injuries. I think Dougeb is partially right – it’s an irresponsible play in the context of their season. Under 15 games left in their schedule, and the Capitals still lead the Eastern Conference. There’s no need for that kind of play – his team isn’t battling for a playoff spot, and A.O should have used a little more discretion on a menial little dump-in like that.

Other Caps fans think this wasn’t a dirty hit at all:

“I don’t even think it was emotional. He tried to hit Campbell and if Campbell doesn’t toe pick it’s not an issue. He caught his toe and took a bad fall. Tough luck but not a dirty play.” {Fehr and Balanced}

I can see where he’s coming from. Brian Campbell did turn a bit before Ovechkin laid the hit on him, and I think Campbell put himself in a bad posistion. He should have looked over his shoulder to pick up on forecheckers – but that doesn’t excuse Ovechkin’s full extension of his arms into the numbers of Campbell. It’s a textbook hit from behind, and it’s a dangerous play that could have maimed Campbell. I think the league has to take action here.

Either case, leave your own thoughts in the comments. Great debate going on in the hockey world about this whole situation.