BOSTON – It was a punishing, hard hit that completely turned the game around for the Boston Bruins, and now we know there won't be any supplemental discipline, a league source to CSNNE.com on Friday evening.
The hit was Matt Beleskey trucking Derek Stepan in the corner midway through the second period in what might have been a tad late in addition to being appropriately violent for a heated hockey game. Dylan McIlrath jumped Beleskey immediately afterward and earned an instigator penalty for his actions, and the Bruins scored the game-tying goal in an eventual 4-3 win at TD Garden during the ensuing power play.
Beleskey admitted the hit might have come a little tardy during his postgame comments, and expressed regret there was an injury on the play.
“I just think he didn’t think I was gonna hit him. He kind of didn’t brace himself,” said Beleskey. “I didn’t take any extra stride, or anything like that. Maybe, maybe…a little bit late. But he saw me coming and I came from the front. It’s unfortunate that – I think I just saw he’s injured, so hopefully he’s all right.”
The thunderous hit itself turned the momentum of a game that was moving against the Bruins during the second period, and unfortunately ended up with the talented Stepan suffering broken ribs when he crashed hard into the boards.
While clearly a bad result for Stepan in the Rangers, it’s baffling how New York coach Alain Vigneault saw the Beleskey hit as being in the same conversation as Aaron Rome’s head shot on Nathan Horton in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. One was a head shot on a vulnerable player and the other was an unfortunate end to a play once the player smacked into the boards, but it was pretty clear postgame that Vigneault was looking for league action on Beleskey.
“In our opinion, it was a late hit. More than a second [late], and he was a couple of feet away from the boards,” said Vigneault, who was coaching Rome and the Canucks at the time of the hit that changed the momentum in the 2011 Final. “So we’ll have to wait and see. I remember Aaron Rome in this building, 0.6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final, so [it will] be interesting to see. Step [Derek Stepan] broke some ribs, so he’ll be out indefinitely.”
Interference was the only possible penalty call that could have gone against Beleskey on the body check that was ultimately deemed clean by the refs on the ice, so it will be interesting to see what the Department of Player Safety decides with this particular incident.
They typically only apply supplemental discipline to late hits that also involve some contact to the head like the infamous Rome hit on Horton, and largely steer clear of shoulder-to-shoulder, or shoulder-to-chest, hits like the Beleskey check. But with an injury to a significant player like Stepan, this might also be one of those instances where the Player Safety group makes a brand new precedent with a play that certainly turned the tide of Friday’s game.