The NHL is cracking down on head contact, which is a good thing. Sometimes, in the sake of cracking down, mistakes are made. A rather big mistake was made in Saturday's game between the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers.
Oilers defenseman Anton Belov was given a match penalty for a head check on Claude Giroux. The only problem was, Belov didn't appear to make contact with Giroux's head. The shoulder seemed to be the principal point of contact instead.
It looked worse than it really was, so it's not necessarily hard to believe the referees saw it the way they did. It's still the wrong call.
Belov got Giroux's shoulder first for sure and never seemed to make contact with the Flyers captain's head save for grazing it on the follow through of the hit. Either way, it probably shouldn't have been a match penalty.
Again, this is a tough call for referees to make. The way Giroux ended up after the hit is pretty deceiving. Look for the Department of Player Safety to rescind the match penalty, as it really shouldn't have been.
This should also spark some debate about making head hits reviewable like they are in college football currently. It might help make calls more accurate and won't put the referees in as bad a position to eject players who shouldn't have been.
It's good the league wants to crack down on head hits, but putting too much power in the referees hands with a split-second look could be recipe for disaster as it was for Edmonton Saturday.