WASHINGTON — Call it embellishment, fake news or something else that’s a little stronger, but the Pittsburgh Penguins sold the officiating crew on a high stick penalty to end regulation. The only problem is, the foul likely didn’t occur, at least not as it appeared.
Here’s the play in real time, which looks for all the world that Washington Capital T.J. Oshie got overzealous and high-sticked Nick Bonino to the face:
Look at Bonino’s head snap back. Look at him pull up and check for blood. The humanity! Fortunately, there was no blood, because there was never any contact between Oshie’s stick and Bonino’s face. Take a closer look in slow motion:
Too fast? Here is a freeze frame of Oshie’s stick at the moment of impact…with Bonino’s shoulder:
The result of the play is that Oshie was banished to the penalty box for a two-minute minor. But there were fewer than two minutes left in the game and the Penguins already led 3-2. The penalty essentially sealed Washington’s fate in this one.
Video evidence clearly shows that Oshie didn’t hit Bonino’s face, but does that mean it’s not high-sticking? There is some room for debate, even among hockey experts. Here’s a Twitter roundup, starting with NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen:
Here are other hockey writers from various walks of life and geographic locations:
The distinction between the shoulder and the face is critical to the definition of Rule 60 in the NHL playbook, with regards to high-sticking:
“A ‘high stick’ is one which is carried above the height of the opponent’s shoulders. Players must be in control and responsible for their stick. However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is commiitte as a normal windup or follow through of a shoooting motion…any contact to an opponent above the height of the shoulder shall be penalized accordingly.”
Therefore, if it hit him in the shoulder, not above, then it should not be a foul. If it hit him in the face, which is clearly did not, it would be a foul.
It should be noted that Oshie did not contest the call, suggesting that he may not have even had a clear view of what he hit. Fortunately for everyone, the eye in the sky does not lie, and the entire hockey-watching community can see that Bonino faked it.
Unfortunately, that does not help the Capitals, who now trail the Pens 3-1 in the series, standing on the brink of elimination.