The first was the goalie interference penalty against Joel Ward that was delayed for almost one minute of play. Here’s how it began: Two minutes into the first period, Joel Ward crashed into the Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss. (Speculation from Caps fans was that Ward was actually pushed into Greiss by Sharks center Logan Couture; at least it looked like that to the Caps faithful watching the replay.) So, at the 18:00 minute mark on the clock, the ref raises his arm to signal a penalty will be called. So, why didn’t he just blow the whistle then instead of waiting until the 17:03 mark? Here’s why.
Per the NHL rulebook: Should an infraction of the rules which would call for a minor, major, misconduct, game misconduct or match penalty be committed by a player of the team not in possession of the puck, the Referee shall raise his arm to signal the delayed calling of a penalty. When the team to be penalized gains control of the puck, the Referee will blow his whistle to stop play and impose the penalty on the offending player or goalkeeper.
What this breaks down to is this; when the penalty against the Caps occurred, San Jose was in possession of the puck, and upon review of the game footage, kept possession of the puck for another 57 seconds. It wasn’t until San Jose made an attempt on goal that was deflected by Braden Holtby and Roman Hamrlik, that the puck was finally no longer in San Jose’s possession. Yes, it seemed like the delay lasted forever. I actually rewound the DVR several times just to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. So, while we all may disagree with the penalty itself, the delay of the penalty for 57 seconds was by the book. The NHL rulebook, that is.
The second out of the norm occurrence was the 10 minute misconduct penalty called on Joel Rechlicz. How can a guy who only played on the actual ice for 1:30 do something worthy of a 10-minute penalty? To explain that, you need the replay and a little history. Joel “The Wrecker” Rechlicz is a right wing on the Hershey Bears and is known for the enforcer role he plays. (He even dropped the gloves with Donald Brashear back in 2010 when Wrecker was playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers). Apparently, Coach Hunter brought Rechlicz up from Hershey for this Sharks game to keep Brad Winchester from being a factor in the game, as he had previously when he was penalized for charging on Alex Semin in January. Per Dale Hunter after practice on 2/14, “The Wrecker eliminated any effect from Winchester”; so, job well done.
But, as to the misconduct penalty, we really have to go back to the replay, because if you blinked – you missed it. At the 16:23 mark in the second period, Ovechkin is skating along the boards when he comes in contact with Ryan Clowe. “Contact” meaning the usual forceful body hit from Ovi that sends Clowe flying. A few seconds later, Clowe tries to return the favor by slamming Ovi into the wall along the Caps bench. Now, you have to watch really closely to what see happens next. While these two hits occur, you can see Rechlicz standing up from his seat on the bench. Just after the hit from Clowe, Rechlicz appears to take offense to Clowe’s hit and seems to be having words with him. Before you know it, the commentators announce Rechlicz and been removed from the bench for a 10-minute misconduct penalty, and nobody seems to know why.
So, what constitutes a misconduct penalty?
Per the NHL rulebook:
75.4 Misconduct Penalty - Misconduct penalties shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:
(i) Any player who persists in using obscene, profane or abusive language directed towards any person after being assessed a minor or bench minor penalty under this Rule.
(ii) Any player who deliberately throws any equipment out of the playing area. At the discretion of the Referee, a game misconduct may be imposed.
(iii) Any player who, after warning by the Referee, persists in any course of conduct (including threatening or abusive language or gestures or similar actions) designed to incite an opponent into incurring a penalty.
(iv) When a penalized player challenges or disputes the ruling of an official after he has already entered the penalty bench and play has resumed.
(v) In general, participants displaying this type of behavior are assessed a minor penalty, then a misconduct penalty and then a game misconduct penalty if they persist.
While fans may never learn the full story of what exactly transpired, we could probably assume (iii) was the reason why. But what may be more important here is the affect The Wrecker had on the game. Looking back, ten minutes in the locker room isn’t too big a price to pay to ensure the opposition knows who and what they are dealing with.