Canadiens v Penguins : Head-shots and Blowing Whistles

Photo - Graham Hughes (AP Photo/The Canadian Press)

Written by:Iain Carnegie, BBBR

There’s no doubt that Brendan Shanahan’s phone is ringing.

After a tightly contested battle at the Bell Center between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens, the smoke will dissipate but the controversy most certainly will not.

Fans of the sport on both sides of the coin will be waiting anxiously to hear whether Max Pacioretty gets the summons from the NHL disciplinary offices or not.

If you missed the hit, here’s some video:

Now I pride myself in being unbiased when it comes to the sport. Regardless of the fact that this is a Montreal Canadiens website, I’ll call it against the franchise if I feel it’s relevant. But in this particular case, I don’t think there is any just cause for suspension.

Regardless of the point that there was no call on the ice from the officials (and we’ll get to officiating shortly), head shots are always reviewed by the league. But watching the replay several times, there are a few points that need to be noted.

First off, Kris Letang is 3 inches shorter than Max Pacioretty. Not an argument, but something that needs to be noted. Secondly, Letang looks up in Pacioretty’s direction and still decides to play the puck with his head down. Thirdly, Letang then leans forward (head down) and proceeds to shoot on net. Finally, Pacioretty finishes his hit and never at any point lifts his elbow or forearm in the direction of Letang’s head.

It’s fully understandable that the league wants to do away with any contact to the head, but when a player is leaning forward, knows that the ensuing hit is imminent, and continues to drive through the play, how can another player not be allowed to finish the hit?

Taking into account the three-inch height difference, which is extended due to the fact that the attacking player is lowering his height by leaning into his shot, makes it considerably harder to consider this an objectionable hit.

So while the NHL will most likely review the play on this hit, there will be no review on the referee’s neglect in blowing the whistle that allowed the overtime winner by Letang, after he returned to the ice – thankfully without serious injury.

It’s regretful that after such a tightly contested match, that the incompetence of a referee in a professional sports league, can cost points for one team, and award them for another.

As Carey Price placed his glove over the puck towards his left post, the referee who was on the far side, and clearly incapable of seeing the play, refused to blow the whistle to nullify continued play. In doing so, the puck was dug out from under Price’s glove, and the winning goal ensued.

NHL rules state that a referee that can no longer see the puck in play is required to whistle the play dead. It was clear tonight that the referee, on the far side of the play, could not see the puck and therefore should have called the play.

Even if the referee had a clear view of the puck, Price clearly had it under his glove hand, frozen, and the play should have been called.

Why are plays like this not reviewable in the NHL? What is the National Hockey League afraid of by opening up calls on the ice to review? We all know that referees are human and will make mistakes, but for the purity of the game, technology can add some assistance. Why it is being kept out of the game leaves me shaking my head.

If tennis – a sport that doesn’t even allow fan noise during a point – can adapt to today’s technology, then certainly the NHL can do likewise. Remember what happened to CFL side judge Rick Berezowski?

Tonight was a tough loss to swallow. I’m not saying that the Habs played a perfect sixty minutes of hockey, but they certainly deserved to win or lose this game on their own merit – or lack thereof.

Controversy will always have a place in sport, and tonight was no exception. The Canadiens can’t get the second point back in this particular case, but here’s hoping the NHL can at least get the Pacioretty / Letang incident right.


About Iain Carnegie (@emann_222 on Twitter)

I have followed the Montreal Canadiens for over twenty years, even while living in the heart of Toronto. I spent 5 years in the mecca of hockey, moving to the Plateau region of Montreal in the summer of 2009, I've been writing extensively on the Habs franchise at Bleed Blue Blanc Rouge BBBR has now moved to it's new home here at WordPress, , where content continues to matter.
This entry was posted in 2011 - 2012 NHL Season, Eastern Conference, Montreal Canadiens, Northeastern Division and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Canadiens v Penguins : Head-shots and Blowing Whistles

  1. Jeff Jr says:

    A tough loss indeed where Price looked to have the door shut! I heard Patches apologized to Letang after which is a great classy move even for oponents in hockey in the heat of the game. So suspension? if he sits 2 games ok its swallowable but if its more than 2 its not. Taking to account Patches hasn’t had any past history or isn’t a repeat offender. The blood on Letangs jersey boggles my mind too where on the Pittsburgh side it was deemed clean didn’t hear anything via Montreal. Now the whistle and Price I will say what a joke what did the ref have to go home quickly or something? I do not blame Carey at all for going out and cursing shows the great passion he has! Sure theres a line when to be professional but right after a tough loss a mic right in his face of course the emotion is very fresh where waiting a day letting the emotions cool down I can guarntee he wouldn’t have shot of a curse word like that. Sorry bout the tough loss!

    • Yep – I’d be cursing too.

      The man who has ice flowing through his veins should be allowed to be heated every once in a while without condemnation. We all remember Crosby slashing his stick against Halak’s post in the Eastern Conference Semi-Final 2 years ago don’t we?

      It was a tough loss. I can understand the league giving Pacioretty a game to set a precedent, but I don’t think it would be the right call. I still hold to the fact that Letang knew the hit was coming, and chose to bury his head and make the play. How many times must we hear that players have to protect themselves?

      Believe me, if Letang had hit Pacioretty in the same fashion, I’d be defending Letang as well.

      For me … Clean hit … case closed.

      Thanks for the read and comments Jeff!

  2. Melissa says:


    I too can be unbiased when it comes to the Habs and this time I can’t say I agree with you. What bothers me is when the whole Chara/Patches thing happened people used Chara’s height against him (saying it doesn’t matter how tall he is he needs to be in control of his body) but now people are using the height defense to protect Pacioretty in this case.

    I didn’t see the game – only saw 1 video of the hit but I personally think its a dirty hit. Sure Letang put his head down which is the dumbest thing a hockey player can do but Pacioretty took a few strides right at him and as he was hitting him, lifted his upper body into Letang’s head an his elbow caught Letang’s chin.

    I personally feel Pacioretty should get a one game suspension if not at least a fine because there was a hit to the head (obviously, since it drew blood).

    The OT goal on the other hand I will 100% agree was BS. Ref could NOT see that puck so it should have been an automatic whistle and on top of that Price had it frozen for over 7 seconds when it was dug out and the goal was scored.

    • Agreeing to disagree is one of our strong points there Mel! =)

      First – thanks for the read, and comments.

      Second, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the Pacioretty hit on Letang. I feel beyond doubt that Letang was aware of Pacioretty’s presence nad chose not to protect himself. Scott Stevens made many a player pay the price for that one (sans suspension). I know the league is changing, but I don’t see a physical attempt to raise a portion of his body into Letang.

      As far as the referee goes, I think that Jeff says it best in his comments here …

      “Did the ref have to go home quickly or something?”

      Clearly that type of abandon needs to be addressed and in my opinion – should be reviewable.

  3. lissa says:

    Okay, here’s my fairly naive (perhaps) and biased (definitely) take. I don’t think he should be suspended. The bias comes from the fact that it’s Max Pacioretty and if anyone has the class and integrity to NOT intend to injure, it’s Max.

    Naive? Because I think it was a collision that couldn’t be avoided, unfortunate as it was. I think if headshots in the league are going to be suspendable when this kind of hit occurs, we will be overrun with call-ups on EVERY team.

    My thinking is this:
    Malone on Campoli – identical and not suspended.
    Chara on Pacioretty – MUCH worse, intended, cowardly, over-defended by Chara, and not suspended.
    Lucic on Miller – avoidable, worse consequences, cavalier attitude (“the fans were enjoying it”) and intent to hit AND injure (plus, a goalie, no less!) – not suspended.

    Too much precedent to take this and suddenly make it an example. The dirty hits we saw last year by the Bruins went unpunished till suddenly Aaron Rome of the Canucks commits the same type of infraction as we’d seen for an entire year AND playoffs, against a Bruin – suddenly the league wakes up.

    My problem is not that it’s one of us. Not that it’s our beloved Max Pacioretty. Not even that we’d struggle without him. It’s that every single time there is a disadvantage, we’re the ones who have to suffer it. Am I crying conspiracy? NOT AT ALL. Am I saying that the league wakes up at all the wrong times? Yes. Not just against the Habs, but against the Canucks during the Stanley Cup Final, against other players from other teams, and suddenly we are on the hot seat.

    I’m betting an example WILL be made of him. I don’t think it’s right because I don’t think this hit could have been avoided. I agree with you, Iain, that Letang DID see Max coming and chose to continue on his path anyway. Max is big, Letang is not. Are we going to penalize players for height now? Chara would sit an entire year!

    By the time this is posted we may have the answer. But I don’t think this should be a suspendable hit; and the refs didn’t see it as a penalty. (though the refs should have whistled the end of the play when Carey froze the puck and caused us to lose the games so I don’t hold refs in high esteem)

    As I said – I’m fairly new, fairly naive and definitely biased when it comes to my team. How could I NOT be? If I were a fan of another team whose players are dirty and consistently gooning it up on the ice, I would be ashamed to stand by that team. But our team isn’t like that, and frankly, I am proud to be a Habs fan, through and through, and cannot feel comfortable throwing one of our players under the bus for a questionable (but not illegal) hit.

    C’est tous. Except, Go Habs GO!!!

    • I wouldn’t call your response naive or biased to be totally honest.

      In reality I think you make some very clear and concise points regarding the hit, and how it matches up to some of the other hits that have been reviewed by the league this year. I personally am passed the Chara / Pacioretty incident, and don’t want to compare the two – because I don’t think they are even close in stature – which is why I turn a deaf ear to the many that are trying to compare both. But when I look at several other hits that have come under review this year, I see the inconsistency, which is the only reason that I can see that a suspension might be given out.

      When looking at the hit as you’ve done, I think there is only one solution – and that is no suspension.

      Thanks for reading, but even more-so for leaving your thoughts. Hope to hear more from you in the future!

  4. lissa says:

    Thank you Iain – now that I’ve broken through, I’ll be more prolific! Cheers!

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