In the second period of yesterday’s game, Senators forward Zack Smith took a run at Rangers center Derek Stepan catching him in the chin with a blindside hit that made head contact. The controversial play led to Chris Kreider immediately pounding Smith and rag dolling him in retaliation.
When it comes to the Department of Player Safety, they look for a couple of things on such hits. What was called? In this instance, Smith was assessed a two-minute minor for interference and a five-minute major. When Rangers coach asked the refs how it wasn’t a major penalty, he got the usual response. Somehow, Kreider wound up with 17 penalty minutes including a instigator and misconduct. In this instance, he was justified in seeking justice.
Stepan went to the locker room probably to go through concussion tests. Fortunately, he was able to return and finish the game. That he wasn’t seriously injured is a miracle. Smith’s intent was clear. This wasn’t shoulder to shoulder or chest. It was dangerously high catching a prone Stepan on the chin with head contact. In our estimation, a dirty hit that should be automatically reviewed for supplementary discipline.
Will it? That remains to be seen. It would be nice for the league to take action. It doesn’t matter that Stepan wasn’t hurt. It’s the kind of cheap hit they’re trying to eliminate. Even if it means Smith sitting two games, it’s better than nothing.