Alexander Kerfoot has been suspended two games for his boarding infraction against former teammate and Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson in Colorado on Saturday night.
The explanation transcribed from the Department of Player Safety suspension video:
Saturday night in Colorado, Maple Leafs forward Alexander Kerfoot was penalized for boarding Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson. As the video shows, Johnson skates towards a loose puck behind the Colorado goal line as Kerfoot pursues on the forecheck. Johnson arrives at the puck first and attempts to corral it with Kerfoot behind him. As Johnson reaches the puck, Kerfoot delivers a shove to his back, causing a violent crash directly into the boards. This is boarding.
It is important to note that Kerfoot is entirely in control of this play. From the moment he hits the hashmarks, Kerfoot sees nothing but Johnson’s numbers. This is not a case of a player turning his back immediately prior to contact in a way that turns a legal hit into an illegal one.
Further, while the shove itself is not delivered with exceptional force, it was also not a case where a player puts his hands on the back to guide, direct, or engage the puck carrier. It is deliberate at an extremely dangerous distance from the boards while both players are traveling with speed.
It is also delivered in a manner that sends Johnson directly into the boards and not at an angle that might minimize the danger of the play. While we acknowledge Kerfoot’s observation that Johnson loses his footing slightly as he attempts to turn up ice, it is the shove by Kerfoot that causes Johnson to crash dangerously into the end boards. This is a forceful shove to the back of a player who is not positioned adequately to protect himself, putting him dangerously and directly into the boards.
-This is boarding
– No history: Kerfoot has been neither fined or suspended previously in his 179 NHL games
The Department of Player Safety has suspended Alexander Kerfoot for two games.
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2019
The irony of Nazem Kadri’s last act as a Leaf being his second career multi-game playoff suspension and his lineup replacement in Alex Kerfoot picking up his first-ever suspension just 22 games into his Leaf career won’t be lost on many fans.
Kerfoot seemed genuinely remorseful after the hit; it’s always difficult — especially when watching slow-motion gifs — to truly understand the pace at which these situations unfold and it looked like he was expecting Johnson to hold him off / box him out more than he did. Fortunately, Johnson appeared to take the brunt of the impact against the boards on his shoulder instead of head or neck, and he was able to stay in the game.
In the hearing, it sounds like Kerfoot and the Leafs argued that Johnson partially lost his footing and it made a relatively light shove produce a much-worse-than-intended outcome. Nonetheless, the fact that Johnsson always had his back turned to Kerfoot, never showed intent to turn one way or the other, and Kerfoot applied the shove on the numbers at one of the most dangerous spots on the ice — 5-6 feet away from the boards — makes it highly reckless and the two-game punishment is difficult to dispute.
Where the disciplinary math doesn’t totally add up: St. Louis defenseman Robert Bortuzzo received a four-game suspension yesterday for his cross-check on Viktor Arvidsson that injured Arvidsson and forced him out of the lineup for the next 4-6 weeks. A repeat offender, Bortuzzo knew he was getting a penalty on the initial cross-check and doubled down with another while Arvidsson was down on the ice. The difference of two games between the intent to injure with the Bortuzzo incident and what was more of a reckless than intent-to-injure play in Kerfoot’s case doesn’t really add up — especially when Kerfoot had a clean record.
Viktor Arvidsson injured after taking two nasty cross-checks from Robert Bortuzzo pic.twitter.com/v8jVySeoab
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) November 24, 2019
The Leafs are carrying 14 forwards at the moment and have both Dmytro Timashov and Nic Petan on the active roster, so we can expect one of the two — if not both, should Nick Shore be the odd man out like he was versus Arizona — will enter the lineup on Wednesday in Detroit. Kerfoot will return for the Saturday game at home versus Buffalo.