The ruling is on the Zach Hyman hit from the third period of Saturday night’s loss to the Boston Bruins: Two games for his major interference infraction committed against defenseman Charlie McAvoy.
Hyman will forfeit $24,193 in salary. Tuesday’s matchup against Carolina will mark the first game Hyman has sat out since becoming a full-time Leaf in 2016-17. He will also miss Thursday’s game in Tampa Bay.
Taken in isolation and with the goal in mind of eliminating predatory late hits from the game, this suspension is probably fair. Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum.
The two-game punishment was decided based on the lateness and blindside nature of the hit, according to the league’s video:
Saturday night in Boston, Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for interference on Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy.
As the video shows, the Maple Leafs dump the puck into the Bruins zone, where it is stopped by Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Halak moves the puck to McAvoy, who looks to make a play. Hyman moves down the boards in case of an errant pass or to play a rimmed puck.
McAvoy quickly sends the puck back behind the Bruins goal. Well after the puck is gone and still outside the line of sight of McAvoy, Hyman delivers a late, forceful, high hit that sends McAvoy dangerously into the boards. This is interference.
Players who are not in possession of the puck are never eligible to be checked. However, the interference rule provides a brief window where a player who initiated a check while his opponent was in possession of the puck may finish his check. This is not such a play.
Hyman initiates this hit well after the puck is gone and contact is made well outside of the window where a check may be legally finished. In addition to the lateness of the check, what causes this hit to rise to the level of supplement discipline is the force of the hit and the predatory nature of the hit itself. Hyman approaches this hit while facing McAvoy’s numbers, ensuring that even a timely hit would be delivered to a player that is unprepared for contact.
While hitting an unsuspecting player is not illegal, doing so on a hit that is extremely late ensures that McAvoy is entirely unaware of impending contact and unable to protect himself in any way.
– This is interference
– Hyman has been neither fined or suspended previously in his 210-game NHL career
– The Department of Player Safety has suspended Zach Hyman for two games
As far as the impact on the Leafs‘ lineup for the next couple of games, Par Lindholm will likely shift to the left wing and Frederik Gauthier will step back into the fourth-line center role.
The other byproduct is the opportunity for somebody like Andreas Johnsson to slot in on the left side of John Tavares and Mitch Marner’s line. Starting with a hat trick against Philadelphia, Johnsson has accumulated 10 points (5g,5a) in his last seven games while averaging just 12:30 in ice time over that span.