Well, the winning ways of the Montreal Canadiens were short-lived. Though they tried valiantly to come back against a very good Colorado Avalanche squad, they just couldn’t climb out of a three-goal hole like they could early in this season.
Unfortunately, the loss on the scoreboard wasn’t the only one of the night for the Habs. Quite early in the game, Jesperi Kotkaniemi was taken out by a scary hit from Nikita Zadorov, from which he would not return.
Scary moment as Jesperi Kotkaniemi is hurt after a hit by Nikita Zadorov pic.twitter.com/DQWMFgfcwx— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 6, 2019
At first glance, I honestly thought this was a clean hit. Zadorov comes in hard and high, nowhere near the head, and the contact is shoulder to shoulder and right up against the boards. It took me a couple of views to diagnose a clear, and decidedly dirty slew-foot.
When you look closely, you can see that Zadorov actually lifts his right leg coming into the hit, then drives it forwards to flip Kotkaniemi backwards. There was zero need for him to do that, as he had the body position and was in the process of putting what would have been a powerful but clean hit on his man.
But of course, the NHL has decided to do nothing about a clear violation of their rules.
Don’t expect a hearing/suspension for Nikita Zadorov.— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) December 6, 2019
It was unnecessary, dirty, and it absolutely should have drawn a suspension considering that Zadorov does have a history. Max Domi almost immediately skated over to address the issue, and if not for Zadorov playing with a face shield, one can assume they’d have been throwing hands.
Perhaps I can forgive the officials for not calling it on the ice, since it took me a few replays to see it myself. I can certainly forgive them more for that than completely missing the butt-end to Domi’s face that immediately preceded the second Colorado goal. But I cannot forgive the department of player safety for failing to address an issue of player safety.
After all, it is a clear violation of the rule...
Ok, the actual slew-footing rule is more than broad enough to include this hit. pic.twitter.com/QFelwF1fnn— Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) December 6, 2019
As you can see in 52.1, the use of the leg to sweep an opponent’s feet from under him and causing a violent fall to the ice shall be penalized. Though Zadorov seems to use his knee, the rule specifies the leg as a whole, so this hit fits.
It also specifically mentions the use of the arm or elbow to drive backwards, which is also present in the hit. It’s incredibly unfortunate that Kotkaniemi fell the way he did, but that is a direct result of Zadorov’s dirty finish to the check.
By rule, what he did is technically worthy of a match penalty. Yet he finished the game while Kotkaniemi went to the hospital.
What strikes me the most is how unnecessary it was for Zadorov to sweep the legs like that. He cuts off the angle, he leads with the shoulder, and he generates great force for the body check. Kotkaniemi would have lost the puck and gone down anyways, but for some reason Zadorov felt it necessary to force him into a backflip.
We don’t yet know what effect the hit had on Kotkaniemi, but he not only missed the rest of the game, he won’t be making the trip to New York for Friday’s contest. Meanwhile, the department of player safety has apparently set a precedent that you can slew-foot players all you want, as long as you hit them with your shoulder first.
This is absurd. The reason why many fans think we still need enforcers in today’s game is because the league allows things like this to go unpunished.
If the league won’t handle it, there are plenty of guys willing to do so that teams can hire for small salaries.