Following a dangerous hit, to one of the league’s biggest stars no less, and a match penalty, then a subsequent hearing earlier today, San Jose Sharks forward Joachim Blichfeld cannot be too surprised about the end result. The NHL Department of Player Safety has announced a two-game suspension for Blichfeld resulting from an illegal check to the head of Colorado Avalanche icon Nathan MacKinnon on Wednesday night. The league ruled as follows on the supplemental discipline handed down:
Blichfeld cuts across the front of [MacKinnon’s] body and delivers a check that makes MacKinnon’s head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable. This is an illegal check to the head.
While we accept Blichfeld’s assertion that he does not intentionally hit MacKinnon in the head, he takes an angle of approach that… makes the head the main point of contact rather than one that more solidly hits through the near shoulder, hips, and core.
While MacKinnon did exit the game following this hit, head coach Jared Bednar seemed optimistic after the game and expects MacKinnon will not miss any time. If MacKinnon had been seriously injured, this easily could have been a longer suspension for Blichfeld. Also helping to limit the suspension to just two games in Blichfeld’s clean record; he has no fines or suspensions in his NHL career, albeit just four games, or in his AHL career. The league also seemed to believe in his statement that the illegal check was not purposeful.
Blichfeld, who had only been recalled by the Sharks earlier in the day on Wednesday and was making his season debut, will now sit for San Jose’s next two games, a back-to-back set with the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday and Saturday. After that, the team will have to decide whether he is worth an extended look or if his suspension is grounds for a return to the AHL.