Jason Pominville left the building after yesterday’s game with a few stitches and a mild concussion, but things could have been worse for the Buffalo Sabres star after being on the receiving end of a brutal hit from Niklas Hjalmarsson when the Chicago Blackhawks took on the Sabres yesterday evening. Today, the league ruled that Hjalmarsson would receive a two-game suspension for the play.
There has been some debate on the play as to whether Pominville saw the hit coming and failed to protect himself or whether the hit constitutes a “blind-side hit” under the league’s new policies regarding headshots and blind-side hits. Regardless of intention or any other factor, the league sent a very clear message by suspending Hjalmarsson that plays like this will not be tolerated and that players need to use more discretion during game play.
Not only did the league send a message with the suspension, but Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller opened up and spoke quite clearly about the paradigm shift that needs to occur in the minds of players now that the league is cracking down on these types of plays.
“I don’t care if it’s unintentional. That’s what we have to get away from hockey right now, is the culture of it; of I was trying to make a play, so therefore it’s not my fault,” said Miller about the hit. “The hockey hit (is meant to) separate a man from the puck, not anticipating the puck getting there and hitting him from behind and driving him into the boards. You have two things right there: The puck wasn’t clearly there, there was anticipation of it, there’s no separation, and he was hit from behind.”
The best view of the hit, which can be seen here, comes at :10 into the video. Pominville waits along the boards and Hjalmarsson comes from completely out of the screen to make the hit on Pominville, whose numbers are clearly visible – a standard indication of a hit from behind. Hjalmarsson did receive a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct after the incident occurred late in the first period.
Miller also weighed in on how the league handles these situations and what he hopes to see in the future.
“My job’s not to make rulings. It’s the League, it’s Colin Campbell,” said Miller about suspending Hjalmarsson. “It’s up to him to set a precedent right now. I hope the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year. ”
In the past, the NHL has displayed a flip-flop attitude on disciplinary activity for plays like this. But the move to suspend Hjalmarsson for a hit like this in the first week of the new season sends a very clear message that these hits will not be tolerated and that players need to use more discretion when they go to make plays like this. Hopefully the league can continue to be strong with this message as the season progresses.