The NHL DOPS decided to make an ambitious PR plan and explain why certain players were and weren't punished for four reckless hits lately, and their rationale was quite astounding.
They reviewed the Doughty hit, the Kucherov hit, the Johansson hit, and the Hartman hit. I was rather enlightened by it!
Out of the four hits, I personally ranked the most dangerous ones to be the lateral ones, but the NHL Department of Player *snorts* Safety *snorts snorts* have wisely enlightened me that it's the consequence of the impact that determines whether players should be penalized... sometimes!
Silly me, I should learn to be a good dog and brought to heel on their immaculate judgements.
So I'll play-by-play describe the hits for the gist of the video so that you all may be as enlightened as I was by these spectacular revelations.
(First they describe the rule, because word-by-word adherence to the rule definitely targets player intent and tells us whether or not these plays were completely reckless or not!)
1. Carrier tries to skate a straight line towards the net and Doughty cuts him off. Carrier's head collides with Doughty's shoulder. Doughty should have cut him of 1-16th of a second later. What was he thinking? I don't know if I've ever seen Doughty's crafty wiles ever more clever since he was actually able to injure him with the back of his shoulder. The NHL was unimpressed by this clever expertise. One game suspension.
"What makes that clear to us is the fact that Carrier's head snapped back!" Ohhh! Duh! Doughty completely meant to strike 1/16th of a second earlier to make sure that all-star William Carrier, with his 3 points in 37 games with the VGKs, was knocked out for the rest of the series! *slaps head at own stupidity* Thanks SO much for that explanation, NHL... if it wasn't for you, we'd all be blind cavemen!
I guess consequence matters!
2. Johansen Cooke-Savard's Tyson Barrie, giving him a face-full of 92 while Barrie was defenselessly shooting. He made sure to stand up straight on impact because Tyson Barrie was going low and going high on a low player is super safe (just ask Marc Savard), so I suppose he should have crouched, but oops? I guess that worked out! Barrie spun 360 on the impact (see?! his head didn't SNAP BACK!), getting the daylights knocked out of him (but the head didn't SNAP BACK! *nods*). His head was the first part of his body to move in the impact, but remember, it didn't SNAP BACK, mmkay?
"While there was 'some head contact', we've determined the head was not the main point of contact?" So my eyes were lying on the slo-mo replay, seeing the head specifically move first in the hit in which Johansen stood straight up to uhm... not-at-all maximize the impact of the hit against the 57 point defenseman. Remember though, he "opened up his body" to make a play on the puck (ie, shoot it, though his eyes were on goal when his eyes clearly should have been looking over his shoulder towards the play-by-play camera), which made the hit A-OKAY! MMKAY? He OPENED HIS CHEST... who cares where his eyes so-wrongfully were.
Who would want to injure a defenseman to win a series? Definitely not anyone mentioned in THIS article!
3. Coming from 8 O'clock, Kucherov delivers a rising check on Vatanen akin to the Rome-Horton check, in which the rising impact made him leave his feet and fall over from the impact. Vatanen left the game, not to come back, and headed back home to NJ for a re-evaluation and what definitely wasn't a concussion that rule 48 is trying to curb from the NHL.
"While there is some head contact on this play, the head is not the main point of contact (for my favourite pla...); Kucherov hits THROUGH Vatanen's left shoulder, then continues on to hit through Vatanen's 'core'; he makes "shoulder to chest" contact (the nose is part of the shoulder) as well as 'hip to hip' contact (because physics clearly states that when one part of the body stops moving, the rest of it likewise). Vatanen's body is lifted UP and to the right (hitting people UP and THROUGH the shoulder being NOT DANGEROUS AT ALL, read me?!)."
So you can hit THROUGH the other player's body parts to hit the head and that's perfectly legal, like me smacking you in the forehead because I saw a fly there: the fly was the principle point of contact of my fist; therefore, I had absolutely NO intent of ringing your skull and scrambling your brains, just like Kucherov had NO intent on hitting a player who had the puck consequently for less than half a second (he totally knew Vatanen was going to have it before his stride), TOTALLY having no intent despite seeing the big numbers 45 and the name VATANEN on the back and knowing this was NJ's top minutes defenseman from his 8 O'clock position! AND! The "core" of a player's body also includes his sinuses apparently.
And so much the better, if the hit is lateral, I have NO intent on injuring someone because what I don't see coming is totally less dangerous than what I do see coming! What was I thinking ever contradicting this line of safety?!
Vatanen has an "UBI" (likely concussion) as the result of this totally safe play, so consequences DON'T MATTER! (remember that)
4. Hartman catches Soderberg skating across the blue line with his head down, but since Soderberg is a superstar player, Hartman totally meant to knock his teeth out with a glancing blow rather than simply rocking his body at the blue line (who wants to give their team momentum by catching a player with their head down anyway?), thereby deeming this 1/16th of a second miscalculation like Doughty did on superstar William Carrier.
It "met the criteria for supplemental discipline" (ie, we totally didn't botch the Cooke-Savardesque slobber knocker Johansen gave to the non-important Avs defenseman, so we're totally not making up for that call by slapping the wrist of a more minor player!).
So again, CONSEQUENCES MATTER! Got that?
Now remember, fellow foolish plebs! "Illegal checks to the head and legal full body hits often look similar at first glance because the difference between legal and illegal can be a matter of inches in a sport that moves fast*; a player might intend to deliver a full body check but miss the hit by inches and recklessly pick his opponent's head*" and also "it is important for the department of player safety to apply the rule book as it is written; our analysis is based strictly on whether a hit is legal or illegal and to what extent a particular NHL rule was broken. We continue to strive to apply the rule book consistently. We hoped this video better helped you to understand the application of the main point of contact portion of the illegal check to the head rule".
* - remember, the faster the game is, the more that players are held accountable for the results of their actions
Let me contextualize this condescension (17th century definition of the word):
It's not about whether the players or not are getting injured or whether or not plays are reckless, or whether players intended to injure other players and get exactly what they want out of the play because of the way ink is shaped on a piece of paper in a poorly written codex that the officials apply only every-so-often. We're not about to change a series and having one group of more important owners get mad at us because one of their players headhunted the other team's star players since those victimized owners matter less. We openly admit that player intent doesn't at all matter; you have to make sure you get lucky and hope the rule book completely supports to the jot and tittle a player's right to recklessly injure other players, but to reinforce freak accidents that happen out of good hockey plays that happen 1/16th of a second off the mark.
Hit laterally, give them nice rising shots and hit their heads through their collar or left arm, get em while they're shooting and make sure you hit them as high as possible as long as you get enough of the collarbone so that we can try to protect our thinly veiled intentions with propaganda videos.
Sincerely, the Department of Rule Book Pedantry (except for the NHL officials; they don't use it, especially in the playoffs)
But in the end: it may not be in the rule book, but that never before stopped the suspensions; they'll give you something for it (hitting from behind, interference, boarding, etc).
Now? Have at it. Headhunting is encouraged.