By now, most hockey fans have either seen or heard about the incident from Thursday night’s game between the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens. If you haven’t, here’s a quick breakdown of what transpired.
Late in the first period, the Devils were pressing in the Montreal zone. The hard forechecking of New Jersey resulted in a goal by Adam Henrique – one that was reviewed by the refs and the NHL after Michel Therrien challenged that it was a result of goaltender interference.
You make the call.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) December 9, 2016
That being said, with Carey Price’s history when it comes to players crashing the net (cue Chris Kreider) it’s understandable that this play early in the game stuck with the 29-year-old. But this discussion doesn’t stem from this particular incident. Instead, we fast forward to the tail end of the first period where Palmieri driving to the net led to this.
Understanding Both Sides
Now it’s understandable that Price was frustrated by the play. After all, he’s already missed significant time over his young career thanks to lower-body injuries. That being said, it doesn’t seem that Palmieri was looking to go into the Montreal net minder as hard as he did.
Again, I’m not going to pretend to know what was going through either players’ mind as the play unfolded. But from the video (and in live time) it looked as though the New Jersey forward lost his footing as he was cutting towards Price’s net.
Following the game, the normally mild-mannered Price said that he was simply standing up for himself.
“It seems to be the nature of the league now is go to the net, run the goalie over and score a goal,” he said in his post-game remarks. “You’ve got to stick up for yourself every once in a while.”
And to some extent he’s right. After basically taking away a goaltender’s crease during the act of scoring a goal, the NHL has opened itself up to this kind of treatment of their goalies. While it’s certainly not intentional, it is something that we tend to see far too often in today’s game.
However, by standing up for himself, Price delivered three solid blows to an otherwise defenceless Palmieri. Not only was the Devils’ forward laying on the ice, but he had both Price and Jeff Petry towering over him as the play went the other way. The key here is that Palmieri was, in fact, defenceless – a type of player the league is looking to protect.
That begs the question – should the NHL take a closer at the end result and hand Price supplemental discipline in the form of a fine or suspension?
The Price Could Be Costly
The NHL instituted rules like Rule 48 to help protect defenceless players or players that found themselves in vulnerable situations. Slowly the league is seeing fewer fights with rules like the instigator being taken seriously.
It’s not a game that wants to allow its players to police themselves the way they once did. Which is why the Price incident is such a major discussion one day after it happened. While he was standing up for himself – protecting his career some might argue – the Habs net minder took things into his own hands and did so at the hands of a relatively defenceless player in Palmieri.
His first shot was to the head of Palmieri and while Price was handed two separate minor penalties for roughing at the time, the NHL rules suggest that he should’ve seen more of a punishment.
“According to the NHL handbook, if a referee deems that a goalie is using his blocking glove to punch an opponent in the head or face with an intent to injure, a match penalty is to be assessed,” writes theScore.com’s Justin Cuthbert.
The two shots to the lower back that followed certainly didn’t help the situation either. Not only was Palmieri slow to get to his feet, but the scrum that ensued put Palmieri in an even more vulnerable position with skates stepping over him and players wrestling overtop of him.
That being said, Price’s actions actually table a much larger discussion – the protection of goaltenders around the league. While a suspension is not likely, there could still be a fine for the star goalie for what transpired on Thursday night. However, this could also be the beginning of a change league-wide to put tougher stipulations on players driving an opposition’s net.
Have some thoughts about the column? Let me know on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes or @Tape2TapeTHW.
Tape2Tape is a column looking at some of the biggest stories from around the world of hockey. Discussing different topics, it focuses on delivering some opinion to hockey’s biggest fans. Whether you agree or disagree, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.