There has been a lot of back and forth on the Alexander Ovechkin hit on Daniel Briere of late. While the incident occurred days ago, there continues to be fall out from the small fine he received and the suspense he did not.
Most people I've spoken to, couldn't believe all he got was a slap on the wrist. Even more surprising were Ovechkin's comment in the aftermath of brouhaha.
In his very best broken English, Ovechkin has explained it this way:
"My contact was not accident. I wanted to hit him. But if you see replay, I don't hit him, you know, hard. I just saw his back and I just hit him. I don't want give him injury or do some injury to him. I'm not the player that -- we're both are players, and I know we both want to play hockey. I don't want to do some injury to him. Doesn't matter Briere or some different player. ... I know it was not a good hit, but I tell you I don't want to do that".
A Capitals fan site called Dumpnchase, gave a great detailing of the hit, stride by stride.
When Ovechkin gets to the red line, he stops moving his feet altogether and is merely coasting. Just after he crosses the red line, Briere slides the puck along boardsl into the Washington end. The two players are now nearly shoulder to shoulder. Ovechkin moves in to bump Briere. His elbows aren’t high, his legs aren’t moving. Just as he does, Briere turns to go to the bench. Ovechkin applies the hit, and rather than a shoulder to shoulder bump that might have been (at worst) an interference minor, Briere goes into the wall and loses his helmet upon impact.
Did Ovechkin hit Briere late? Yes.
Was it done maliciously or with a "dirty" intent? Sure didn’t look like it.
Could he have stopped, turned or pulled up? Probably.As mentioned, he was already coasting.
Does Ovechkin usually finish his checks? Yes.
Is Ovechkin bigger than Briere? Yes. The Caps’ 2006-07 press guide lists Ovechkin at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. The Sabres’ book has Briere at 5-foot-9, 177 pounds.
Did Ovechkin hit him as hard as he could have hit him? I’ll bet if you asked Radoslav Suchy, Colin White, Vitaly Vishnevski or countless other, bigger players who have been on the receiving end of previous Ovechkin bodychecks, they would tell you he did not.
Does the rule book state that the puck carrying player bears part of the responsibility to avoid placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position? It does (Rule 42, page 92). And as previously stated, Briere’s turning motion made all the difference in the severity of the hit.
Does Briere believe he bears part of the blame for the hit? He does.
"There’s physical, and there’s hitting from behind. That’s a pretty gutless play," said Briere, in Sunday’s edition of The Buffalo News. "But at the same time, I’ve got to take part of the blame, too. You’ve got to protect yourself a little bit better than I did."
Does Ovechkin have a history of malicious hits? No.
The 20 PIM he picked up in Saturday’s game represents nearly a quarter of his career total of 82 in 107 games. The two major penalties he picked up on Saturday night were the first two of his NHL career, and one of them (the fighting major) was a complete joke. The boarding penalty he got against Buffalo was the second of his career.
Last season, Ovechkin ranked seventh in the league among forwards with 172 hits. That’s 172 hits without a single boarding violation. This season, he is tied for ninth among NHL forwards with 62 hits. That’s 234 career hits, two boarding penalties. Does that constitute a history of malicious hits? Definitely not.
How badly was Briere hurt? He laid on the ice for a bit, got up, skated to the bench. Sat there for a minute until the Buffalo trainer insisted he go down the runway for a spell. He returned even before the penalties were announced and play had resumed on the ice. Played 21:08 on the night, nearly 10% above his season average of 19:34. It was the 11th time in 26 games that he exceeded the 20-minute mark. Even spent eight full minutes (four of them after the hit from Ovechkin) cooling his heels in the penalty box during the course of the evening, preventing his ice time total from climbing even higher.
Given that preponderance of evidence and circumstance, I didn’t think there was any way he’d draw a suspension and I was glad to find out today that the league agreed.