Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby made contact with Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby in Wednesday’s regular season matchup between the two long standing rivals. Crosby ran into Holtby in the Trapezoid behind the Washington net while Holtby was in the process of a clearing attempt. To me this was an obvious penalty, which wasn’t called. It also probably should be a suspension.

I’m all for the goalie being fair game. I see this wasn’t a huge hit or anything. This to me has nothing to do with it being a hit on a goalie. If this had been on a regular player I’d be saying the same thing. The two words that come to the forefront are Head Contact.

I think suspending on head contact alone is as ridiculous as turning a high sticking minor into a double minor or major just because there’s blood. There is such a thing as unavoidable head contact. To have a case though, you have to do everything you can to minimize the chances of dinging someone’s noggin. Crosby made no effort to do that at all. In fact, he made a last second adjustment that all but guaranteed it.

Crosby was not going to win the puck race and had ample time to see Holtby had clear puck possession. As a player this would make him eligible to be hit, and for goalies I think it’s fair to allow a light puck battle as well. They often do. Crosby continued on toward the Capitals netminder to try and stop him shooting the puck up the wall. He started with his body facing the boards and pointing his left side at Holtby. making himself narrow. This may have allowed him to slip through the very small lane between the boards and Holtby’s body to avoid significant contact.

Seeing Holtby in a shooting posture and knowing his head was the most prominent body part in that lane at the time, this was already a risky thought. Then, at the last second, Crosby turned his body so he was facing Holtby, making himself as wide as possible. This is a great choice for trying to block a clearing attempt. It’s not so great a choice when you want to avoid hitting something straight in front of you.

One thing really bothers me about Crosby’s actions – he makes absolutely no effort to play the puck.

Holtby has the puck on his stick and Crosby was close enough to reach out and stick check it away. He didn’t, instead deciding to press his blade against the boards in the least likely position to do anything related to a puck battle.

This isn’t the tenacious possession champion Sidney Crosby I’m used to seeing. He approached the whole situation as if contact was his only worry. His head is looking at Holtby the whole time, not the puck. He makes the turn and then just…keeps going. He does squeeze his shoulder blades together in an effort to be somewhat smaller, and he does keep two hands on his stick awkwardly to keep his stick in that narrow opening close to the boards. But the key word is unavoidable.

What he doesn’t do is stop or slow down. What he doesn’t do is keep his inside (left) shoulder turned in away from Holtby. He opens himself up right as he’s about to make contact. With the height his shoulder is at and the way Holtby is positioned for shooting, there’s absolutely no way Crosby could have hit anywhere other than Holtby’s head.

Make no mistake, this was avoidable. The Department of Player Safety should at least review it.

 

 

 

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