Washington Capitals’ star winger Alex Ovechkin was upended in Game 5 of their series against Toronto by a Nazem Kadri hip check, who was called for tripping on the play. Ovechkin was escorted off the ice and could not put weight on his left leg. The hit can be viewed here, courtesy of NBC. He returned to the game for the second period.
Kadri attempted to lay a hip into Ovechkin as he carried the puck out of his defensive zone along the left board. Kadri succeeding in making contact with Ovechkin, but not before Ovechkin attempted to avoid the brunt of the impact by veering slightly right. The result was Ovechkin being twisted and flipped, in what looked to the officials in real time to be a knee-based trip. On the ensuing powerplay resulting from that penalty, the Capitals scored the opening goal. If the series hinges on such a call, the criticism from Toronto and Canada in general could be deafening. Notably, both Mike Milbury and Keith Jones called the hit legal during the intermission break for NBC.
Ovechkin, who is a notoriously tough, hard-nosed player, is no stranger to physicality. The winger has missed remarkably few games over the course of his career – he only missed 4 contests in the last 3 seasons. His 33 goals in 2016-17 were his lowest total since 2013 – he had hit the 50-goal mark the previous three. However, coach Barry Trotz has consistently praised Ovechkin’s focus on defensive, all-around play this year, in hopes his change in style would lead to a championship run. Ovechkin has been one of the greatest playoff performers for a Washington team that has consistently struggled to find success in the post-season. His 44 goals in 88 games places him 16th all time in playoff goals per game, with the closest contemporary player on the list being Phil Kessel (at 20th). Considering his Capitals have never made it past the second-round during his career, this statistic is made even more impressive.
Ovechkin surprisingly returned to the game for the second period, in apparent game shape. His return was not anticipated by most analysts, and hockey fans everywhere exhaled a sigh of relief for the health of one of the game’s greatest players. His availability beyond this contest is unknown, but this is the time of year players will play through injuries.