Wednesday’s Toronto-Tampa Bay game started off as a wild one. Amidst new pressure, James Reimer didn’t start strong, allowing a Radko Gudas goal less than a minute into the first period. Not to be outdone, Tampa’s Ben Bishop continued his post-Olympic struggles by allowing a Phil Kessel goal less than three minutes later.
By the end of the first period, the Lightning had a 3-2 lead on the Leafs. But the first did not tick down to zero. It was ended seconds short because the most dangerous play in hockey, the hit from behind, reared its ugly head again.
As Paul Ranger goes to retrieve the puck, he glances first up at the clock, and then over at Alex Killorn. Ranger then stops and pivots to turn back in the opposite direction and Killorn hit him directly from behind and head-first into the boards.
Ranger was taken to a Toronto hospital and the team gave an update of his condition before the third period began.
Paul Ranger was taken to local hospital for precautionary assessment this evening during tonight's game. He is stable, conscious and alert.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 20, 2014
When it comes to supplemental discipline, if a player puts himself in a vulnerable position, the hitter may not receive any suspension. This is not what happened in the Ranger case. These eyes see, especially from the view at the 1:31 mark of the video, Ranger’s numbers pointing at Killorn the whole time. When that’s the case, the hitter has to acknowledge the situation and not crush the defender.
Five minute majors are not called often enough in a checking from behind situation, but was this time, perhaps because Ranger was left lying on the ice. Killorn was also given a 10-minute misconduct and ejected from the game.
To change the head space of NHL checkers going into a hit like this, serious discipline has to start on the ice in the hands of the referees through five minute majors and follow up at the league level with serious and escalating suspensions. Killorn surely didn’t mean to drill Ranger from behind, but it happened and is the type of hit that needs to be reduced with serious attention.
To get an idea of where Brendan Shanahan and the NHL’s supplemental discipline team will be when considering this play, check out the video below. By their explanation, it’s a borderline suspension call, though to me, this is a no-brainer sit down for Killorn because I don’t believe he does see Ranger’s side or front and certainly doesn’t soften the blow. Hits related to this one are discussed starting around the 6:07 mark.