Last night during the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators game, it was a parade to the penalty box to start the game, and that was before things really got chippy. In the last minute of play during the second period, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Erik Karlsson were tied up in the corner when the first shot was fired. It’s a little grainy, but the action is not in doubt.
Vlasic Pitchfork of Karlsson
Vlasic's spear on Erik Karlsson last night. (zoomed-In replays) pic.twitter.com/Yw47Inrl5z
— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) December 15, 2016
Right after this play, Ottawa’s Kyle Turris came off the Senators bench and made a beeline for Vlasic, and the two dropped the gloves. Replays had not shown just how dangerous the spear on Karlsson was, but the reaction from the Ottawa bench sure showed that the altercation was viewed by many on the team.
Karlsson is the offense and defense of the Senators, and protecting one of the best defensemen on the planet is a priority each night. Vlasic pitchforking the All-World rearguard like a bale of hay is not something that will be overlooked. The Turris and Vlasic fight that ensued seemed to let some of the steam out of the issue.
The Hoffman Hit
Later in the game, though, it was evident that Senators winger Mike Hoffman didn’t think that justice had properly or fully been doled out. During the seventh minute of play in the third period, Mike Hoffman was behind Sharks center Logan Couture in front of goaltender Mike Condon.
While it ‘s hard to measure the magnitude of different hits, most hockey fans would agree that a spearing infraction is grounds for a suspension and major penalty, although Vlasic escaped those penalties as both referees missed his stick work away from the play. However, the crosscheck to the back of a players head has to be considered at a different level altogether.
The NHL has been cracking down for years on hits to the head and handed out many penalties for bang-bang plays that skaters have fractions of a second to make decisions before contact. Skating up to a player away from the puck and inflicting that kind of hit with the stick can only lead to a question of how many games the suspension is, not if a suspension is warranted.
If Vlasic is Suspended
The NHL will be taking a look at the Vlasic pitchfork of Karlsson. It has to, especially as they will also review the fallout from that play when they dole out the Hoffman suspension.
While the play is completely outside Vlasic’s reputation as a player, this type of dangerous play will be addressed. While it is possible Vlasic could receive a fine, more likely it will be a one-game suspension to put the rest of the league on notice and again show that even if a penalty isn’t called on a play, the Department of Player Safety is watching.
Should Vlasic be forced out of the lineup, the Sharks seventh defenseman Dylan DeMelo has been excellent in spot-duty and there is no reason to think he cannot continue his steady play.
Couture Out, Meier Recalled
This is where things get tricky. Couture centering San Jose’s second line is a tough hole to fill now that he is sidelined with some sort of head injury. The Sharks are already without Tomas Hertl, who is on LTIR to give San Jose the cap relief to call-up the extra bodies they have on hand. Hertl’s injury has already moved Chris Tierney up to the third line pivot position.
The Sharks have a plethora of centers on the roster and one of them will likely move around, with Patrick Marleau being the likely candidate. Timo Meier’s recall from the San Jose Barracuda will most certainly put him on the wing, perhaps on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, assuming that Marleau is moved to the second line pivot spot. Shooting from the hip, the Sharks forward lines could look like this for tomorrow’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Projected Forward Lines
Timo Meier – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski