Q: Say Mike Richards slashes Sidney Crosby's stick, and the slash is so hard that the stick flies from Sid's hands and strikes Marian Hossa in the face and draws blood. I know the initial slash to the stick can be called as a minor penalty, but could any additional penalties be given to Richards if the stick injures another player on the ice?
Judd Fuoto, Oakton, Va.
MOLINARI: Over the years, Q&A readers have demonstrated a knack for finding an unconventional slant on almost everything associated with the game, whether it's a hypothetical in-game situation like the one described above or ways to circumvent the salary-cap safeguards built into the collective bargaining agreement.
Fortunately for those folks, a lot of people who make their livings in the NHL -- whether they're associated with the Penguins or another club, or actually are employed by the league -- are extremely generous with their time when questions about such things are sent their way. They routinely pass along requested information and, if necessary, research issues to answer questions posed by readers.
And, boy, if ever there was a scenario that cried out for professional analysis, this was it. Consequently, the submission above was passed along to Stephen Walkom, the NHL's director of officiating. Before moving into management, Walkom refereed more than 600 regular-season games and 80-plus in the playoffs, as well as international events such as the 2002 Olympics and 2004 World Cup. Even so, he said "that is my first brush" with the issue raised above.
Nonetheless, he offered a detailed assessment of how he believes such a situation should be handled. Excerpts of Walkom's response:
"My first thought on this is, "No," as we have many situations in a game where an infraction is committed and something unfortunately happens that injures an opposing player. Take, for example, a player who high-sticks a puck and, in doing so, the puck flies through the air and cuts an opposing player. The high-sticking of the puck is illegal, but we would not call a penalty for injuring a player with the puck.
"You can never say "Never" on such plays, as a player could slash a player high on the shoulder, have the stick break and hit the player in the face, and the referee may say the stick was dangerously high and a reasonable man would know it could catch the player in the face.
"In the (situation described in the Q&A submission), his stick is low and broke, flying into the air (and) causing an injury. Difficult to call a penalty on that one."
Q: Hossa's role in the Evgeni Malkin close-range slap shot (goal during Game 1 against Philadelphia) should receive an automatic footnote. He stood up for Malkin at one corner of the rink and then made the play all the way in the other corner that made the Sergei Gonchar pass to Malkin possible.
Ron, Squirrel Hill
MOLINARI: Hossa will have to settle for an automatic footnote, whatever that might be, because that's all he's going to get for the part he played on that goal, which closed out the scoring in the Penguins' 4-2 victory last Friday. Unless you count the respect and appreciation of his teammates, who couldn't have helped but be impressed by the effort Hossa put out during that sequence.
The Penguins were killing a penalty when Malkin had a scoring chance, but failed to capitalize on it and subsequently absorbed a heavy hit from Richards behind the goal line. Hossa responded by throwing his body into Richards, then hustled to the other end of the ice, where he threw another check that allowed Gonchar to gain possession of the puck. Gonchar threw it ahead to Malkin, who was hovering at the Philadelphia blue line, and he moved in alone on goalie Martin Biron before pounding a slap shot past him.
Gonchar picked up the only assist on the play and that's as it should be, because he was the only Penguin to touch the puck before Malkin. Suffice to say, though, that without Hossa's involvement -- especially the hit he threw in the defensive zone -- the scoring sequence wouldn't have been possible.