New York Rangers Rapid Reaction: Cody Eakin’s Hit on Henrik Lundqvist

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

In the first period of tonight’s game, Cody Eakin knocked Henrik Lundqvist out for a few minutes of action. While Lundqvist did re-enter the game, the Rangers netminder was flipped into the air and stayed down for moments after. Eakin’s hit was unacceptable and he was rightfully ejected from the game. Here is a rapid reaction to the hit.

Midway through the first period of tonight’s New York Rangers vs. Dallas Stars game, Cody Eakin leveled Henrik Lundqvist. The hit would have been a high hit on an unsuspecting player in general, but being it was the Rangers goalie, the hit was even more unacceptable. Eakin raised his upper body into the unsuspecting Lundqvist, knocking him into the air.

Not only was Lundqvist unsuspecting, but he was in a vulnerable position with his head down. Goaltenders are meant to be safe from checks on the ice, and Lundqvist knew this when he played the puck.

In some situations the skater runs over the goalie due to the inability to swerve out of the way. Eakin’s hit does not fit the bill. Eakin had plenty of time to maneuver out of the way, but instead continued to skate into Lundqvist, performing a check. Once Lundqvist went down, Eakin skated away and the game continued on.

Before we move into potential punishment, the opinion here is that the Rangers’ response to Eakin’s hit was weak. Failing to challenge Eakin to a fight was fine, as earning an instigator penalty would have only negated the Rangers power-play. Where the Rangers failed to defend Lundqvist was on the scoreboard, as the 5 on 3 then 5 on 4 did not tally a single marker. The best defense of the goalie would be to give him a cushion to work with for the remainder of the game.

Returning to the hit itself, Cody Eakin must be made an example of by the NHL. Eakin was ejected from the game for breaking Rule 42.1.

As explained in the tweet, by ejecting Eakin using Rule 42.1, the referees confirmed they believed the hit was intentional. Considering the angle and speed of the hit, that means the referees confirmed Eakin intentionally launched his upper body into an unsuspecting goaltender who knew he could not legally be hit. While Lundqvist returned to the game, goaltenders are fragile beings, and the long term ramifications remain to be seen.

Not only was Eakin’s hit reckless, but it carried intent. By failing to stop, Eakin chose to deck Lundqvist. Eakin must be suspended as a player looking to harm an opponent, a suspension that normally carries a large quantity of games.

For comparison’s sake, Nazem Kadri was suspended for three games in 2013 for hitting Minnesota Wild goaltneder Niklas Backstrom.

The Department of Player Safety video explains two reasons for Kadri’s suspension:

"“First, Kadri is in complete control of this play and is not being steered, shoved or ridden into Backstrom. As Kadri stated during his hearing, he should have been more aware of his impending collision.“Second, this is not a glancing blow. It is a direct and forceful blow to the head by Kadri’s forearm that causes a serious injury."

DOPS continues, explaining that Kadri was not suspended for more games because the belief was the hit was not intentional. The explanation:

"“First, Kadri’s eyes are on Lupul on his approach to the net and Kadri remains focused on the puck intently enough to deflect it out of the air, creating a scoring chance. In addition, Kadri’s arm and elbow are tucked at impact. The flare of his arm is post-contact. And while it’s a clear indication of the force of the blow, it is significantly different from someone intentionally extending their forearm prior in an effort to make contact.“And while we accept Kadri’s assertion that this was not intentional, he still bears the responsibility of avoiding – or at least making an attempt to avoid and minimize – contact such as this. He does neither."

Using Kadri’s hit as an example for Eakin’s is unfair, as then-leader of the Department of Player Safety explains the key line:

"First, Kadri’s eyes are on Lupul on his approach to the net and Kadri remains focused on the puck intently enough to deflect it out of the air, creating a scoring chance"

Nazem Kadri received a three game suspension despite the NHL admitting that his eyes were focused on the puck. Kadri’s hit was a classic example of a “stupid hockey play” in which the player did not do enough to avoid the hit, but also did not intentionally hit the player. The non-intent becomes intent of sorts because of the outcome.

Cody Eakin absolutely intended to hit Henrik Lundqvist. Given the speed and power of the check, as well as the amount of time Eakin had to slow down or stop, it was as clear of a hockey hit as any between two forwards.

Thus, Eakin must be treated as a far more guilty party than Kadri. Eakin’s suspension must at least double Kadri’s, as he does not hold any of the same excuses Kadri did. Eakin’s eyes were on the play, he had time to stop, and he intentionally extended to hit Lundqvist.

Next: Rick Nash Leading the Rangers Amid Uncertainty

The hope here is that Henrik Lundqvist remains healthy following the collision. For the NHL’s sake, a skater leveling one of their top stars must warrant a major suspension. The NHL must make an example out of Cody Eakin, given all of the context.