Kronwall is going to Kronwall. It can’t be stopped.
What’s amazing is the exact same situations he finds himself in. The puck gets wrapped up the boards. The winger swings down to pick it up. As soon as he puts his head down: WHAM!
Sometimes he drops the shoulder a little lower. Sometimes he leaves his feet. Sometimes he gets weird with it, basically skating backward and unloading the dump truck on the poor soul who had no idea it was coming.
Why Kronwall has a monopoly on the pinch-down-from-the-point-and-destroy-the-winger hit will be one on of life’s greatest mysteries. Every single hit is huge. Yes, sometimes they are dirty. But there are a lot less dirty hits than we think. In the NHL Gary Bettman and the players have crafted, every single big hit — clean or otherwise — results in a post-whistle scuffle. Any play that results in an injury has to be dirty first.
Jakub Voracek’s injury from Kronwall’s hit on Tuesday was tough to watch. You can judge the merits for yourself by watching the Kronwall-Voracek hit here. Despite the various passive aggressive headlines from NESN, no penalty was called. No supplemental discipline or Shanaban was handed out from the NHL.
The simple fact is, the hit was clean. Let’s look at why.
First: Let’s set the situation: second period, 2-1 game, the puck is wrapped around the wall.
Voracek gives a quick glance at the Red Wings defenseman. It might not be enough time for Voracek to realize which defenseman it was, but Voracek knows he’s about to get hit. This wasn’t a complete blindside.
Voracek actually mistimes the puck, and has to slow down and reach back for it. That’s when Kronwall sees his opportunity. He takes one hard stride, loads up, and basically waits for Voracek.
NHL Rule 42.1, Charging: “A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner. Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner.”
The vague description leaves charging up for interpretation, but Kronwall’s hit wasn’t a result of distance traveled. He waits while Voracek basically skates into him. Once they make contact, he explodes through the check. As for the jumping part:
At the point of contact, Kronwall doesn’t leave the ice. The half-inch vertical midway through the check is the highest he gets off the ice. Even then, it is after contact is made and comes from Kronwall exploding through the body. The charging rule specifically states skating or jumping “into.” There are no restrictions to going through a player.
Now, let’s address the biggest issue: What about the hit to the head? This also involves some clarification. If you’ve been alive since the lockout, you know the NHL has been targeting hits to the head. What they want to get out of the game is targeting of the head with the hands and elbows going up. Kronwall’s hit had neither.
His shoulder was down. His elbow was back. Voracek was still hunched over in a full forward skating position (as you can see in picture two) as he continued to try to gain possession of the puck. Kronwall, on the other hand, was up and gliding, as we’ve already established. There was bound to some contact to the head and the contact that was made was accidental. The head wasn’t targeted.
So NESN.com can take their use of quotation marks on the “clean” hit and shove it. At least their commentors know what’s up.