After losing checking forward Zach Sill earlier this week to a two game suspension for boarding, the Washington Capitals find themselves under the microscope once again. Marcus Johansson laid an open ice hit to the head of Islanders defenceman Thomas Hickey yesterday and will face the NHL Department Of Player Safety in a hearing later today. Johansson was issued a two minute penalty on the play for an illegal check to the head.

My view of the hit is that Johansson was in full control of the situation and could have made a better choice. Hickey was in plain view and didn’t change his body angle or his intention with the puck at all. What makes this different to me than those explosive high speed collisions is that Hickey was pretty much standing still
and wasn’t putting himself in a
position reasonably foreseen jeopardy. He had the puck and was eligible to be hit, and he definitely saw Johansson coming. To his credit, he didn’t duck or spin or make any major alterations. He accepted the hit to make the play, probably expecting the assumed light contact.

The force Johansson was able to generate into the hit is actually quite impressive because he has to create it basically all by himself. When that’s the case, he also has to be the one to take full control over where that energy is directed.
As always, I look at what the purpose of the hit is. Is it a hockey play? To create the extra force, Johansson has to lunge upward and into the hit. This to me makes changes the hit from a hockey play to predatory. He’s attempting to maximize impact instead of just attempting to separate his man from the puck. Again, this puts the onus on Johansson to control both the body part used to throw the hit, and the main point of impact on Hickey.
The result here is an intonational upward thrust into the head using the elbow. Considering that the maximum amount of force that could be provided by a hit like that is reasonably low, I’d give him three games. It’s about making the player think about his choices.