The Boston Bruins shook off the inevitable rust that an eleven-day break will bring and skated to a convincing 4-2 victory over the St Louis Blues in game one of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Monday night. Despite the highly entertaining game, a major focus of attention in the aftermath was whether or not a thunderous open-ice hit delivered by Bruins’ defenseman Torey Krug on Blues forward Robert Thomas in the third period should have been penalized for charging.
The ACTUAL full sequence leading up to the Krug hit.
Debate amongst yourselves. pic.twitter.com/JcRbRSBNqo
— Hockey Central (@HockeyCentraI) May 28, 2019
As the hockey world lost its collective minds over the play and the debate continues to rage on 24 hours later, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at charging in the NHL Rule Book in order to form an opinion once and for all as to who’s right and who’s wrong in this debate.
According to the 2018-19 NHL Rule Book, charging is defined as follows:
Rule 42 – Charging
42.1 Charging – A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into or charges an opponent in any manner.
Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.
How the hell is that not a charging penalty on Krug? Wow.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 28, 2019
The argument being made most commonly by those who believe the officials neglected to call a deserved charging penalty is that Krug skated a long distance to deliver the hit and therefore it constitutes a charge. What those people are failing to consider is that hockey is a game that involves players skating over distance to make various plays, including hits, at speed.
Traditionally, when charging has been called, and the distance traveled argument is made, the play usually involves a player going out of his way, or deviating from the normal course of play to deliver the hit. In the case of Krug in game one, there is an argument that he traveled some distance prior to making the hit. This is a fact. I would pose a counter-argument, however, that Krug was skating hard to get into position following his entanglement in the defensive zone with Blues forward David Perron. Krug was skating hard to gain position in the offensive zone, which is where the puck was, and the hit he delivered was one that presented itself on his arrival into that position.
Another argument some have made is that Krug left his feet to deliver the hit, another element that is often satisfied on a charging call. This simply was not the case on this hit. Krug’s momentum upon impact caused him to leave his feet AFTER delivering the hit, but not before. The fact to the matter is that Krug did not jump into Thomas, the impact itself caused Krug’s feet to leave the ice, not the other way around.
Rule 42 of the #NHL rule book states that a charging penalty is when a player skates or jumps into or charges an opponent in any manner. A minor is at the referee’s discretion based on the violence of the charge. Based on this wording I would say the #Krug hit is legal. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/yUcZQjHQqU
— TheHockeyHistorian (@HistorianHockey) May 28, 2019
A defense of Krug’s hit that has been argued is that Krug was gliding for a considerable distance and not striding into Thomas when the hit was delivered. This again is a fact. Krug takes his final stride at the offensive zone blue line and makes contact with Thomas just above the hash marks of the faceoff circle. Krug was gliding at impact and did not leave his feet, this eliminates two of the elements commonly cited in cases of charging. It is undeniable that Krug is traveling at great speed, but upon checking, skating fast is not a punishable offense in the NHL Rule Book.
The final argument that has made the rounds is that Krug is a 28-year-old man delivering that hit on a 19-year-old kid. This holds absolutely no relevance whatsoever. Thomas is an NHL player participating in the Stanley Cup Final. End-of-story. He’s also 6’0”, 192 pounds and was hit by a player who stands 5’9” and is listed at 186 pounds. The argument that he shouldn’t be hit due to his age simply doesn’t cut it, if his teammates have an issue with that, then they could stand up for him. They didn’t, and it remains to be seen if they will as the series continues.
“It was old school.”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 28, 2019
To put a bow on this play, it was a devastating hit delivered by Krug that was not penalized. Whether or not it was a punishable charge is debatable, but the on-ice officials saw it as a hard, clean hit. The only thing we can all hope for is that the standard of officiating has been set, and shall remain consistent as this series progresses. In a season and post-season in which the officials have come under fire all too often, on this occasion, they appear to have gotten it right.