With all the buzz surrounding the 10-0 drubbing of the Montreal Canadiens at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, there’s any number of things to talk about.
Josh Anderson’s second goal for Columbus was particularly funny. He skated across the slot right into the path of Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher and floated a backhand into the top of the net without ever looking away from Gallagher. He basically threw the puck away to save himself from the imminent hit. The only reason he even knew he scored was the reaction of his teammates.
Anderson wasn’t the only one who missed watching the puck go in. Habs goalie Al Montoya never even flinched from his goalie stance. I’m pretty sure he thought he was posing for a portrait. He found out about the goal the same way Anderson did.
But going back to the seconds before the hit, I have to give Josh Anderson a lot of credit. Most players get caught focusing on getting the shot away at all costs, even when it puts them in a vulnerable position in a dangerous spot such as the middle of the slot.
The NHL can’t ask players to lay off hits on guys shooting from the high percentage areas, yet they repeatedly do. A shooter is always low with the arms extended and the head exposed. Sometimes that contact results in a head shot and sometimes it doesn’t. And when it does, more often than not it’s caused exclusively by the body and head position of the shooter, not because of the hitter.
But the NHL Department of Player Safety has a habit of punishing the hitter anyway because the onus is on them to keep the hit safe. On top of that, they’re ridiculously inconsistent with it. So what we end up with is a regularly occurring hockey play with unclear directives for the players.
Players need to stop waiting for the Department of Player Safety to protect them. They’ll never suspend enough people for long enough to stop hitting someone in a prime scoring area. And you can’t control how someone is going to hit you. All you can control is your own body position.
Josh Anderson makes a fantastic choice. He knows he’s entering a danger zone and he knows Gallagher is coming at him. So instead of standing in there like a quarterback and finishing his full shooting motion, he braces for impact. His head is safely up the whole time and he even evades the brunt of the hit.
Imagine if he had stayed in there and gotten a decent shot away. Maybe Gallagher gets a little bit of his head, and maybe he gets suspended for 2 games. Is that really going to make you feel better if you’re out 3 months with a concussion? Because the league got their man?
Now, you could argue Gallagher shouldn’t make the hit then. You could say isn’t allowing a shooter to score better than possibly ending his career?
But like I said, I think the vast majority of problems are because attackers are in an automatically vulnerable position during the act of taking a shot. The onus should be taken off the hitter here. As long as no rules such as charging, elbowing, or high sticking are violated, the hitter has technically done his job. If the only reason the hit gets looked at is because of the posture of the shooter, let’s make it their responsibility to protect themselves.
I like to think the goal by Anderson was the reward from the hockey Gods for making the smart choice.