News this morning broke that Chris Neil would not have a hearing –thus no suspension– for his hit on Brian Boyle that knocked the Rangers most dominant skater in this series* out of the game (and likely season) with a concussion. The hit (video below) had Boyle looking down at the puck while skating over the middle, and Neil specifically seeking him out ad delivering the hit.
*-It’s sad when Boyle is the most dominant skater in the series for the Rangers.
Before focusing on the hit, let’s look at Neil’s history. He has only been fined by the NHL once, in 2003 no less, and never been suspended. So Neil is not a repeat offender. Neil is an agitator that toes the line.
When watching the hit, it reminds you a lot of those hits Scott Stevens would deliver. Using the freeze frame below, it appears that Boyle’s head is the area that gets hit, but the angle itself of the video doesn’t necessarily prove that. Neil could be targeting the opposite shoulder, which is also not necessarily proven by the image either.
The thing about this hit is that it is eerily similar to the hit Marc Staal delivered on Matt Stajan last season (video below). The ruling on this hit was that Staal was targeting Stajan’s shoulder, and he did not receive a suspension.
So while Brendan Shanahan has been incredibly inconsistent this postseason with handing out Shanaban’s, this ruling on Neil is actually consistent with previous rulings that went in favor of the Rangers.
It’s a tough call to say if that hit was illegal because everything happens so fast, and the camera angles in the Neil hit are very inconclusive. Hockey is a physical game, and stuff like this happens. Personally, I think not even having a hearing is a bit odd, especially when you include the fact that Boyle has been a target for the Senators since Game One, and that the NHL wants to take hits like this out of the game.
Do I think Neil should have been suspended for that hit? My heart says yes because I hate to see a questionable hit like that happen to the Rangers. But my brain says no because Staal wasn’t suspended for a very similar hit.