The end of the second game on back to back nights with the Los Angeles Kings got a bit out of hand, and the man in the middle of all of it was newly acquired Ryan Reaves.
With Vegas trailing by two and less than 10 minutes to go, Reaves was called with two penalties, made two other strong hits, and indirectly caused Gerard Gallant to be charged with a bench minor.
Here are the hits, the calls, the rules, and where I come in on each play.
Penalty 1 – 12:20 – Boarding
41.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. -NHL Rule Book
Analysis: By the letter of the law, this is essentially textbook boarding. Reaves checks the player, who is absolutely defenseless, in such a manner that causes the opponent to impact the boards violently.
The puck is absolutely out of the play and the intent of Reaves is not hockey-oriented, instead, it is to finish a hit.
This being said, I’m completely aware of how often calls like this are not made. Boarding can be called on a lot of checks in the NHL. However, this one has two factors that made it even more likely for it to be called. First, Reaves loads up on the check. He brings his shoulder back to try and completely demolish the Kings player. The second is who is committing the infraction, Ryan Reaves. He is known for this type of behavior and referees have a tighter eye on him.
Could it have been let go, sure, but this is boarding.
Penalty 2 – 16:37 – Roughing
51.1 Roughing – Roughing is a punching motion with the hand or fist, with or without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head or face of an opponent. -NHL Rule Book
Analysis: This one is much closer than the last one. There is technically a punching motion directed at the back of the head of the Kings player, however, Reaves’ hand is on the stick and the contact does not appear to be enough to have drawn the penalty.
Referees are allowed discretion to decide when a call should or should not be made. By rule, many penalties could be called in the course of a game, but refs choose not to for various reasons. Reaves’ action did not effect the play, it did not hurt the player, and it probably didn’t even lean cleanly.
This is a case of the referee seeing that Reaves needs to be stopped, so he makes a call to try and get him off the ice. Understandably, Reaves had turned into a wild man, but to make this call is harsh. Then, the referee doubled down by handing out a bench minor to Gallant for being upset over it. With the call being so tight, the ref has to use better judgment to allow Gallant to challenge the call verbally without drawing a second penalty.
No Call – Extra Hits that could be have been ruled charging
42.1 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. -NHL Rule Book
The first one is a clean check that is a hockey play. Reaves is challenging for the puck and impacts the player to attempt to change the play. No call should have been made, no call was.
The second one is charging. Reaves travels an extended distance to deliver a violent check to a player well after the puck is gone. It was let go, which is also a potential reason why the roughing penalty may have been called later.