MacKinnon Penalty a Farce


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Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon received a five-minute major for boarding at 19:07 of the first period. Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux scored 50 seconds later. Of course, with major penalties, the offender sits the whole time regardless of how many times the other team scores.

Sure enough, with MacKinnon still sitting in the box 2:48 into the second period, Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds scored another power play goal. While it wasn’t the game-winner, that second goal more or less put the fork in the Colorado Avalanche.

And all on a bad call.

Yeah, yeah, fans never want to admit when their players are goonish thugs. And MacKinnon is well-known for being a lightning-fast forward with sniper skills… oh, wait, the two aren’t the same. Last year’s Calder Trophy winner for rookie of the year is hardly known for being a goonish thug. He’s never even been in an NHL fight unless you count that time St. Louis Blues Captain David Backes hogtied him like he was a prize steer at the rodeo.

Never mind, even skill players can exercise bad judgement and participate in dangerous plays. However, Nate didn’t do that. He looks like he barely gave Philadelphia skater Luke Schenn a tap on the behind — seriously, Claude Giroux got much handsier with cops over the summer. Er, I mean, I’ve seen football players hit each other’s behinds harder in congratulations… Ok, just watch the play yourself:

While it’s true Schenn falls into the boards, it’s unclear whether it’s a direct result of MacKinnon’s tap. While MacKinnon is strong, it seems unlikely he could have put much force into the tap when he was actually drawing away as he made contact.

It looks more likely that Schenn lost an edge. Perhaps it was as a result of MacKinnon’s hit, but it could just as easily have been circumstance.

Concerning the NHL rule on boarding, it’s left largely to the discretion of the referee:

"“A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.”"

According to the rule, the player making the check must ensure his opponent is not in a “defenseless” position. However, the circumstances of the check are considered, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position.

Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy stated he had “no problem” with the call. However, he pointed out:

"“My only problem with it is that the referee was very close to the play, but it was the linesman at our own blue line who made the call. I just think that’s a little bit too far away to make the call.”"

Considering the play happened all the way on the other end of the ice, it does, indeed, seem too far away to make the call — especially since there were officials much closer who did not see boarding.

Nate, for his part, takes “full responsibility” for the play:

"“It was a dumb play by me. I was just trying to turn him to one side with my hand. I definitely take responsibility for the hit. I didn’t mean to hurt him. I feel really bad — I know he’s hurt.”"

What a compassionate and responsible young man Nate is. He obviously knows he didn’t push Schenn hard enough to cause him to go careening into the boards as he did. However he called the play “scary.”

Boarding a player can, indeed, be scary:

That is a scary boarding call, with a player, Martin Hanzal, pushing a defenseless Dustin Brown into the boards with all his strength. Big difference between that and MacKinnon’s play.

Now the NHL Department of Player Safety is going to review the MacKinnon penalty to see if “Schenn lost an edge or if MacKinnon pushed off.” I hope it’s a quick review that shows the former is the case. If the league wants to remember what pushing a player “with violence” into the boards looks like, hopefully they replay the Hanzal hit, which garnered a one-game suspension.

MacKinnon’s play was nowhere near that level and should receive no supplemental discipline. Indeed, the five minutes, which essentially cost the Avalanche the game, was already overkill.