August 14, 2022

Ovechkin suspended, Michalek cleared for separate hits on Sunday

The NHL announced this afternoon that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin will be suspended for 3 games and fined an $154,677.75 for his hit on Zbynek Michalek Sunday in the Caps 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Ovechkin was not called for a penalty on the play.

NHL Vice President Brendan Shanahan delivered the ruling a little after 6:30 pm. He cited the fact that Ovechkin’s skates left the ice prior to initial contact with Michalek, and that Ovechkin made contact with Michalek’s head on the follow-through, as the reason for the length of the suspension.

In a separate incident later in the game, Michalek was penalized for a hit on the Caps Matt Hendricks where the Pens’ forward hit Hendricks with his elbow in the head along the boards.  Michalek was cleared by the NHL, which chose not to fine or suspend the player.  Hendricks told reporters after Caps practice today that “I don’t think it was a clean hit,” but apparently the league office didn’t think the blatant elbow was reason enough for suspension.

Watching the replay, especially in slow motion, one can understand why Ovechkin was suspended for the hit.  He clearly jumps before contact is made, and as Shanahan clearly stated in the suspension video, once Ovechkin left the ice he was responsible for any contact made with Michalek. And though initial contact was shoulder-to-shoulder, Ovechkin’s momentum clearly carried him through to Michalek’s head.

What’s not understandable is how Michalek avoided supplementary discipline for his blatant and intentional elbow to Hendricks’ head.  There is no ambiguity, no questioning the intent or motive.  Michalek intentionally elbowed Hendricks in the head.  Period.  Sometimes plays along the boards can get muddied, where intent is not as clear as an open ice elbow, such as the one delivered by Rene Bourque on Nicklas Backstrom.  But that’s not the case here.  It’s as clear as Ovechkin jumping to hit Michalek that Michalek intentionally elbowed Hendricks in the head.

One has to wonder if Hendricks were a skilled player, or injured, if Michalek would have faced supplementary discipline.  The NHL is making great strides in supplementary discipline, and the suspension videos are commendable.  But meting out discipline based on injury — instead of intent — is still lamentable.

CAPS NOTES:  The Capitals returned defenseman Tomas Kundratek to AHL Hershey today.  Kundratek played in five games with the Caps, making his NHL debut Jan. 11.  He did not register a point and collected two penalty minutes in his five games.

Nicklas Backstrom skated without pads for about five minutes before practice, marking the first time the Swedish pivot has taken to the ice since Jan. 6, three days afer being elbowed by then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque.  Backstrom is on the injured list for the Caps and is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms.


Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Capitals coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP


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