Brookes Orpik of the Washington Capitals has likely significantly shortened Penguin Oli Maatta’s playoff season by doing this:
The question of whether he should be suspended only has one answer and that’s a resounding capital YES. Everyone, even Mike Milbury (who if you’ll remember thought it was ok to jump into the crowd and beat a man with his own shoe) agrees, so that says something.
Where I don’t agree with many is on why. People are crying for Orpik to be carved up and served on a platter. But what exactly did he do that was so terrible?
If you watch the hit alone and forget the puck completely (which is obviously what Orpik was doing), you see that he took literally two strides, one push with each foot, from the blueline down to where the hit took place. Other than that, he had his feet planted and was in perfect posture and position to defend. No problem here.
As Maatta took himself lower into the zone, Orpik stayed parallel to him and except for a token one handed slash to the stick(commonplace), did nothing other than take away the lane to the net. Again, he didn’t even take another stride.
It was only when Maatta changed his own path of travel by stopping up that Orpik truly engaged in the hit. Again, without taking a single stride, Orpik just turned his skate blades toward Maatta and allowed his own momentum to make the hit.
Orpik didn’t charge, lunge or jump. He kept his shoulder and elbow down, and his stick was clear. He threw a clean check as far as technique goes.
Maatta suffered an obvious serious head injury. You never want to see that happen to anybody. The natural conclusion is head shot. But here’s where the league needs to be careful. As I’ve been saying all year, the definition of a head shot shouldn’t be any hit that results in contact to the head. A head shot should be defined as a hit where the head is SPECIFICALLY TARGETED as the principle point of contact. I don’t believe Orpik targeted the head.
So why do I want a suspension?
The puck is vital in determining whether something can or can not be deemed a “hockey play”. Maatta gets rid of the puck pretty early, by the time he reaches the middle of the circle. Orpik as I said has his attention fully on Maatta. He can clearly see the puck is shot away. It isn’t until after they reach the bottom of the circle that Maatta changes
his path and posture. It’s only at this moment that Orpik changes his own path of travel and engages intentionally toward Maatta. The timing of the hit makes it a non-hockey play. This is blatant interference. Because of injury alone, this should have been 5 minutes for interference on the ice.
Why I think this hit is suspension worthy is only because it should never have happened in the first place. It’s the lateness of the hit, and specifically because the hit wasn’t even initiated until well after the puck was taken out of the equation.
That’s why I think this is only a one gamer (one playoff game = 2 regular season games), and not worthy of a burning at the stake.