Adam Larsson was assessed a double minor penalty 56 seconds into the third period for high-sticking when his backhand shot follow through accidentally clipped Joe Thornton through a forest of facial hair. Evidence of blood inside Jumbo's mouth resulted in the 4 minute penalty but Coach Todd McLellan and the Oilers were spitting mad that the penalty was called in error.
Players must be in control and responsible for their stick and are subject to a high-sticking penalty when making contact on an opponent above the height of the shoulders.
This generality applies pursuant to the following exceptions contained in rule 60.1:
"However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion,
OR accidental contact on an opposing center who is bent over during the course of a face-off."
To further clarify, "A wild swing at a bouncing puck would not be considered a normal windup or follow through and any contact to an opponent above the height of the shoulders shall be penalized accordingly."
The reasonable and legitimate question that Oilers Coach Todd McLellan had for referee Graham Skilliter was how could Adam Larsson's backhand clearing shot not qualify as a "normal" follow through and therefore exempt from a penalty?
The rule applies to a normal follow through of a shooting motion - that includes wrist shot, slap shot, forehand or backhand.
As Larsson approached the puck in the corner he set his body to backhand the puck up the wall and out of the Oilers end zone.
Joe Thornton, in close pursuit and proximity to Larsson, lowered his posture to below the top of the dasher board, reached and contacted the Oilers' defenceman's stick in an attempted full stick lift.
Following the stick lift pressure from Thornton, Larsson maintained a strong position and returned his stick to the ice in contact with the puck and made a normal backhand shot.
Based on the height and direction of Larsson's stick in the follow through it would appear to be normal under the definition of the rule.
What might be described as 'abnormal,' in the sense that it contributed to the contact and ultimate injury, is the lowered posture taken by Thornton as he veered ahead of and into the path of Larsson's shot release.
The reverse angle provides us with a similar perspective that Larsson's follow through was in fact "normal" given the downward angle from his top hand to his stick blade and his visual focus on where the puck had been through the shot.
Once Larsson felt contact with Thornton, the Oilers player extended his arm and hands in an effort to back off and reduce pressure while moving in the his stick in the direction of his opponent. Larsson's stick was parallel to the top of the boards - approximately 42 inches above the ice.
I would suggest that everything Adam Larsson did on this attempted clearing shot was well within the definition of a normal follow through of a shooting motion. While a player that has been cut or injured on a normal follow through might not accept a non-call on the play, the reality is that players are allowed to shoot the puck in a normal manner without being penalized - or so the rule says.
Enjoy the All-Star Weekend from Staples Center. I'll join you next week from the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Stop by and say hello if our paths cross at that great event.