Was James Neal Kneeing Marchand Intentional?

Was James Neal kneeing Brad Marchand’s head intentional? Was it revenge? The debate continued all night following the dramatic regular season finale between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. Anytime a player (Neal) sticks his knee out to make contact with another player’s head (Marchand), the incident is going to be controversial to say the least.

 

 

Saturday night wasn’t the first controversial incident between Marchand and Neal. In last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, Marchand hit Neal from behind in front of the Penguins’ bench. Neal was a bit dazed, but surely he hadn’t forgotten about this hit.

After last night’s game, Neal admitted to making contact with Marchand’s head, but acted as if he were unsure of the exact details regarding the hit.

“I was skating by him. I haven’t seen the replay or anything,” said Neal. “I mean, I hit him in the head with my leg, my foot, or my knee or shin area, I don’t know. He’s already going down. I guess I need to try to avoid him. But I need to look at it again.”

After Neal gave his initial recollection of the incident, he was asked whether he stuck out his leg/knee on purpose.

“What do you want me to say that I was trying to hit him? No, I’m going by him and I didn’t get out of the way like I said. I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that.” -James Neal

The video evidence doesn’t exactly support Neal’s words. His actions appeared to be intentional. Neal’s eyes looked to be at Marchand on the ice before contact took place. Neal seemed to slant his left knee out to ensure head contact when this action could’ve been avoided. He looked to lift his left skate blade off of the ice prior to the blow. His posture also changed. Neal appeared to slightly brace himself for contact prior to knee to head contact.

Dan Bylsma didn’t exactly support Neal’s actions either. Instead of not commenting about the incident, Bylsma hurt Neal’s chances of being in the line-up on Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Marchand went down as Neal was skating by and he (Neal) didn’t make an attempt to get out of the way on Marchand,” said Bylsma.

The NHL Department of Player Safety will have a phone interview with James Neal on Monday. They must be of the opinion that the incident wasn’t that malicious since there won’t be a face to face meeting with Neal. As Bob McKenzie of TSN reported, Neal will receive no more than a five game suspension since he will only have a phone interview.

This won’t be the first time Neal is reprimanded by the league for a questionable hit to an opponent’s head. He was suspended in the 2011-12 playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers. Neal was given a one game suspension for charging Claude Giroux.

Neal is the only person who knows if his knee to Marchand’s head was done with intent. The video speaks for itself. After realizing the history between these two players, this incident has to make you wonder. Neal is more than likely to be suspended, but what do you think? Did Neal knee Marchand in the head on purpose to get revenge for last year? Or was this a freak accident?


Justin Glock
Justin Glock has covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers since 2011. As a lead writer, his Penguins knowledge traces back over two decades. For any requests, please feel free to contact Justin via email: JGlock10@gmail.com.
Justin Glock
Coach Johnston.....let's keep Letang off the ice in crucial defensive situations. It's not complicated. - 19 hours ago
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15 Comments

  1. Unbiased Observer says:

    The penguins are known to be a dirty team with Crosby, Malkin, and Neal leading the pack. Marchand, Giroux, Couturier, Pruchka, Dorrsett, and even Bylsma agree on this fact. To argue otherwise would be silly and a tacit endorsement of Neal’s brutality and that of the rest of his team.

    • Thanks for taking a look at my article. To your comment, Bylsma has never admitted any of his players are dirty. Marchand is just as if not more dirty than Neal. Every player takes cheap shots, the superstars cheap shots are just more under the microscope. Crosby has never been suspended for anything cheap and neither has Malkin if I recall. All hockey players at every level hook, slash, and make little cheap shots to gain an advantage. It’s hockey. However, in regards to Neal’s most recent actions, they were without a doubt dirty and cheap.

  2. Neal’s contention of no intention is at least plausible.
    I watched the replay with the game clock running. Marchmand wend town at 8:59 as Neal turned away from the boards to avoid congestion . When Neal contacted Marchmand, the game clock was still 8:59, and it remained at 8:59 as Neal glided past the blue line.

    Neal had at most 1/2 second to avoid Marchmand or to change direction to make contact. That is about the same amount of time a goalie has to stop a hard slapshot from the blue line, but the goalie knows it is coming. The entire incident is right on the edge of plausible reaction time. Draw your own conclusions, but I cannot find certainty.

  3. Considering their history I think Neal knew what he was doing there. He had enough time to see who was down and skate directly in to him. I hope (hard to say that considering the player) that Marchand is alright. Neal should be suspended for this hit.

    I have no faith in the NHL handling the Thornton situation correctly though.

  4. This could possibly be made a big deal but the fact its marchand who is known for being a dirty player and a diver who embellishes everything. It’s sickening to see Orpik get taken off on a stretcher and then boston turns around and try’s to put the spotlight on Neal.

  5. “Was it intentional?”

    That’s funny. Most likely just for page views, whether or not it was intentional isn’t even up for debate.

    • Well considering that Neal said he didn’t do it on purpose and there are people out there who don’t think it was intentional, I’d have to say it is. But hey thanks for reading Jeremy.

      • If you’ve read the entire article, I think you can see my take, but I do write to report, entertain readers, and b/c I enjoy it. I wrote it b/c I heard both sides from people. Hopefully you’ll agree next time.

  6. Kip Marchetti says:

    Of course it was intentional. It’s rough justice for the Marchand hit from behind last year. It probably deserves a couple of games.

  7. The fact that the question “was it intentional” is even asked is laughable.
    The question that this article should be asking is does Neal’s intentional knee to Marchand’s head deserve more than a 5 game suspension?

    • Well Neal said that he didn’t do it intentionally. If you read my article, I think you can figure out my stance. There are people out there who don’t believe Neal had time to react nor did he do this on purpose.

      • Those people that believe Neal’s actions were not intentional would have to be his mom and grandmother. Anybody that believe’s differently just isn’t that observant, doesn’t know the history between these two or is a bigger homer than Jack Edwards. Neal’s actions were no less intentional (or deplorable for that matter) than Thornton’s on Orpik.

        • One does not have to be 100% certain that Neal was purposeful to impose an additional intent to injure penalty. An occasional false positive is preferable to a large number of false negatives when player safety is at stake.

          Likewise, one need not believe that Thornton intended to seriously injure Orpik to impose a more serious punishment.

          There is a quantitative and qualitative difference between an instantaneous action and a foul committed well after play had ended.

      • fair_n_hite_451 says:

        Neal lied.

  8. Three-gamers, I would say, could be a five-game suspension too.

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