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What did you think of Mark Olver's hit on Vladimir Tarasenko in the third period of Wednesday's game between the Avalanche and the Blues? The four officials on the ice looked like they were talking about it and one of them gave some sort of an explanation to coach Hitchcock. Should the hit have been penalized? What could the officials have explained to him?
There isn't a clear-cut, black and white answer as we look at Mark Olver's shoulder check to the jaw of Vladimir Tarasenko. I suspect opinions will vary as to whether a penalty should have been assessed on the play. There are a few aspects of Mark Olver's hit, beyond just the principle point of contact being Tarasenko's jaw, which I would like to share and ask you to consider in determining if a penalty was warranted on this play, given your best judgment.
I, perhaps like Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, would have preferred the assessment of at least a minor penalty for charging by one of the referees on this hit that went bad. Based on Tarasenko's turn toward Olver immediately prior to contact, I do not believe that a charging major and game misconduct would have been justified in spite of the injury sustained to the St. Louis player's face or head. Tarasenko's turn also prevented the application of Rule 48 — Ilegal Check to the Head since contact did not result from a lateral or blind side hit, nor was the head targeted as the principle point of contact.
It is my belief that the officials did not have a good look at this play from their respective angles, nor were they focused on the distance that Olver travelled through open ice as a potential secondary checker on Tarasenko.
Avs defenceman Greg Zanon would have been the official's primary blip on their radar as he approached Tarasenko from the goal line position. Zanon's objective would be to contain the slick Russian rookie as he gained puck possession on a ring-around off the stick of Blues teammate Vladimir Sobotka.
Tarasenko's body position was square to the boards as he received the puck, therefore placing himself in a vulnerable position to be hit from behind, but wisely dished the puck back to Sobotka below the goal line prior to being checked by Zanon. Freeze frame this picture in your mind, folks and take on the visual focus that Olver would have had in this moment, given his incoming flight path.
Olver approached with some speed (albeit gliding prior to impact) in a straight-line attack from a considerable distance and would/should have seen the numbers on the back of a vulnerable Tarasenko standing two feet from the boards and square to them!
Red lights should have flashed for Olver that his opponent was not only in a vulnerable position but unsuspecting of the impending hit and would therefore be unable to protect or defend himself as described in Rule 43 — Checking from Behind. Without regard for Tarasenko's vulnerable position, Olver made a conscious decision to finish his check.
We can only speculate as to which type of hit would have rendered more damage to Tarasenko; either directly from behind or the shoulder pad to Tarasenko's face once he turned immediately prior to Olver's impending contact. Either way, we know that Olver made the decision to finish a hit on Tarasenko; a decision I deem to be reckless, dangerous and worthy of a penalty.
Olver decided to steamroll Tarasenko whether it was from the back or the front on this play. Given Tarasenko's vulnerability factor, it was a poor decision for Olver to make and should have been penalized in my judgment. It is very evident from Tarasenko's eyes that he was in considerable distress after receiving the shoulder to his jaw. We can only hope that he is okay and returns to action quickly.
Hitchcock was making his appeal to the officials, wondering out loud and with hand signals how it was possible for the four of them to miss what he felt was an obvious penalty after they had huddled at the penalty box. Now that you have seen the video along the perspective I have provided, the call is yours to make. I am going to stick with mine; two minutes for charging.