Boarding has been a hot topic here on Tough Call this 2016-2017 NHL season. I don’t know if it’s the trickle down effect of monkey see monkey do, but it’s already come up twice in the 2017 World Juniors as well.
The first big hit came in Canada’s tournament opener against Russia. Noah Juulsen was tracking a puck along the boards through the neutral zone when he was tagged into the boards from behind by Denis Guryanov.
The Russian forward was assessed a two minute boarding penalty and I think that was harsh. He had every right to make the hit and took an excellent angle of approach. He never changed his path or altered his posture during the lead up of the hit and through impact. Juulsen on the other hand kept himself still until just before impact, when he suddenly and unexpectedly turned his body around to expose his back, and completely changed his posture.
There was no way for Guryanov to take corrective measures to avoid the dangerous contact.
The second significant hit also involved a Russian, Danil Yurtaikin, who was on the receiving end of a check from USA’s Erik Foley. Foley was dinged with a two minute minor as well and this time it was the right call.
Yurtaikin was eligible to be hit and Foley had a good angle on him. He kept true to his path and was getting set for impact when Yurtaikin somehow got ahead of him. Foley was lined up nicely on Yurtaikin’s left shoulder, but when he accelerated forward just before impact, Foley ended up behind that shoulder, causing the point of impact to be more from the back than the side.
While this means Yirtaikin made a last second adjustment just like Juulsen, it wasn’t a change in posture or body position. It was a change in location. That one is on Foley to react to. He was beaten at that point and should have let it go. Instead, surprised by the now greater distance between him and his opponent, he reached out in a pushing motion to close the new gap. That’s what caused Yurtaikin to spin dangerously sideways and hit the boards face first.
I’m not surprised these incidents ended up with the same penalty, both on the hitter, because the international game is consistently more cautious and less forgiving than the standard North Americans are used to.
Right or wrong, if there’s a big time impact involving player to boards in international play, the hitter will be punished 9.5 times out of 10 regardless of cause or technique.