The Vegas Golden Knights have played just one playoff game and there’s already a controversy. It involves Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who, after getting pushed around by the Golden Knights, hit William Carrier. The problem is, Doughty hit Carrier high, starting with his chin. That made Carrier enter the concussion protocol, and he didn’t return to the game.
Doughty had a hearing at which it was decided that he would be suspended for Game 2 of the series between the Golden Knights and the Kings. With Vegas taking Game 1, the next tilt is now within reach as well.
Here’s the hit:
With the NHL cracking down on hits to the head, it made sense to suspend Doughty. While the head hit may not have been intentional, it’s hard to discern motive—especially when Carrier was (cleanly) hitting Doughty all game long.
Doughty didn’t receive a penalty during the course of the game for the hit on Carrier, but the NHL wants to show that they are taking care of their players.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety cited an “illegal check to the head” as the reason for the suspension. They made the following argument:
“Doughty delivers a high, forceful hit that makes Carrier’s head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable. The illegal check to the head rule does not take into account what the first point of contact is.”
Doughty’s suspension affects the series in a huge way. Doughty led the Kings in time on ice with 28:02 on Wednesday night, and he makes a huge impact in both ends. Losing that, in addition to the Kings having already lost another top-four defenseman in Jake Muzzin, substantially helps the Knights’ chances of winning Game 2 and the series in general.
The suspension also serves as a warning. It means that Doughty won’t get away with anything for the rest of the series, and that could impact his play as well. A more hesitant Doughty means more room for the Knights to get off shots with him on the ice, which could mean more goals.
The most important thing for the Golden Knights, when all is said and done, is that Carrier gets healthy. He was a huge presence in Game 1, one that had been missed by Vegas for some of this season. His combination of speed and tenacity brings a new element to the Golden Knights, and as such, his recovery is important going forward.