Anton Volchenkov's hit on Simon Gagne in the third period on Tuesday night may not have even been the most egregious non-call of the night. For that, you can look to a waived off Flyers goal late in the third and a blatant elbow to by Volchenkov to the face of Dan Carcillo earlier in the game could even get some votes as well.
But the non-call on Gagne was the most dangerous and the most shocking of the night at Scotiabank Place. The goal that should've been waived off on the play and the lack of any sort of penalty for Volchenkov's hit completely turned the tide in this game.
The Ottawa commentator in the clip above calls it a 'good, solid hit', using the defense that Gagne knew Volchenkov was coming. It's safe to say that we, uh, don't agree.
- It's a blindside hit. The argument the commentator uses in the clip is that Gagne turned away as the hit was delivered. It's common defense in these situations, but in this particular instance, it's just not correct. Volchenkov hits Gagne blind the entire way. Simon is looking down at the puck, and as he plays it up the boards, he turns toward them to follow his pass. Using the 'he looked away' defense implies that Gagne did it on purpose to draw a penalty. Couldn't be further from the truth. Unless he has a really well-placed mirror on that puck, there's no way he knew Volchenkov was coming.
- It's a hit from behind. The same defense -- that he turned away on purpose -- is the argument from the other side on this one as well. Again, though, it's just not accurate. Gagne doesn't see Volchenkov, and you can kind of see from the video that Volchenkov's trajectory begins from behind Gagne's position. Even though Gagne turned to the boards, it doesn't change the fact that it's a hit from behind. It's just a difference between a hit from behind into the open-ice near the boards or one into the boards.
It's boarding. Boarding calls are all at the referee's discretion, but after the argument I made above, it's difficult to say that there should be no boarding call on this play. At the very least it should have been a minor penalty, but the only true difference between this play and the Alex Ovechkin hit on Brian Campbell is that Campbell was seriously injured. It's by sheer luck that Gagne didn't suffer a similar fate.
- It's charging. The rules define charging as "the actions of a player or goalkeeper who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A 'charge' may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice." So it doesn't matter where Volchenkov hit Gagne -- whether it be from behind, from the front, from the side, from the top, from the bottom, from the crowd. It doesn't matter. He took several strides across the ice, traveling a distance, and violently checked Gagne. He didn't glide into the guy. He made several strides and skated right into him while delivering the hit. There are no bones about this: it's charging.
The officials clearly missed this all tonight. Luckily, Gagne was fine, and that was clearly evident a few seconds later as he pummeled Volchenkov into the ice. Clearly that's a penalty or two... but um, 19 minutes worth? While Volchenkov only gets two for roughing? That's the problem with the NHL right there, folks. In a nutshell.
Use the argument that the ref didn't see the play, perhaps, but that's BS too. The puck was still fairly close, and if one official isn't looking there then they're clearly out of position.
There's no justice on the initial play, so the player either gets hurt or takes things into his own hands. When he does that, he gets the book thrown at him. It's a lose-lose situation for the victim, and the officials sit back and let it happen. It's an absolute joke.
There's no Matt Cooke excuse here. There are at least three current rules on the books that say Volchenkov could've been thrown out of the game for what he did to Gagne, and none of them were implemented. It's an utter travesty, and even if Volchenkov gets suspended by the league come Wednesday or Thursday, it doesn't matter. This play was a turning point in the game tonight, a game which was absolutely gigantic in the standings for both teams.
If this continual parade of bullshit continues, the NHL is going to lose a lot of fans. That's both a guarantee and a damned shame, really. You can't blame people though. It's just an utterly ridiculous display every single night.
But you know what? At least Gagne had the cojones to stand up for himself. People who aren't blind with their hatred of the Flyers will certainly appreciate that, so good on him. And good on Mike Richards and for stepping up to the plate as well, even though their actions on the play probably helped Ottawa score a goal. At that point, it just doesn't matter. The Flyers may have lost the game on Tuesday night, but they at least went down with some honor.