By Allan Muir
I was watching the Edmonton broadcast of the Oilers vs. Blackhawks game the other night when I saw Chicago's Daniel Carcillo steaming toward Edmonton's Nail Yakupov.
It looked like CarBomb was going to unload on the rookie, but Yakupov sensed the threat at the last second and ducked, leaving the hard-charging Carcillo to slam face-first into the boards.
"Dodged a bullet there, didn't he?" I thought.
And that was it.
It wasn't until the next morning that I heard that Chicago broadcaster Ed Olczyk had taken issue with Yakupov's decision to avoid a date with the glass.
You cannot do that to a player that’s coming. That’s a dangerous play by Nail Yakupov. Because what happens is, when you duck like that, that player is going to go over the top of your shoulder and hit his face or his neck against the boards. To me that should be a penalty on Yakupov. I see it at the amateur level, I’d like to see USA Hockey and amateur referees take control of that type of play. I hope it’s not being taught by coaches, but that’s a dangerous play. Somebody’s going to get really hurt when a player ducks like that.”
Really? Was Olczyk actually saying that a player has a responsibility to ensure that the guy who is trying to drive him through the boards doesn't splatter himself instead?
Okay... well, maybe just a bit of a homer call there. No mention of the fact that Yakupov had long since given up the puck or that the distance Carcillo traveled probably qualified it as a charge, but hey, that's Eddie's take. Probably on an island with a few Hawks fans with that one, I figured.
But apparently he wasn't the only one who saw it that way. During Wednesday night's Montreal-Toronto broadcast, the TSN crew weighed in on the play, which they deemed "controversial."
"Absorb the hit or sidestep the hit, but you can't go low like that on a guy. It's not fair," said Bob McKenzie, arguably the most level-headed commentator in the business. Moments later, Darren Pang agreed. "I'd rather see him take the hit."
Remember, Yakupov didn't instigate this contact. It wasn't like Brad Marchand low-bridging Sami Salo in open ice. This was a guy trying to avoid being blasted by a player whose own respect for the safety of others can fairly be called into question.
And if you've ever played the game at any level that involved checking, you know it makes a lot more sense to have the other guy slam into the glass than to let him flatten you.
Finally, TSN's Aaron Ward made that point.
"You gotta avoid the hit. It's self-preservation, a war of attrition out there" he said. "You can't fault a guy for escapability."