Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy has been suspended four games for an illegal check to the head of Florida Panthers’ defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
The hit came midway through the third period of Boston’s 3-2 overtime win on Monday. Referes Chris Schlenker and Kelly Sutherland issued a match penalty for the hit, ejecting McAvoy from the game.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety also evaluated the hit, handing out a four-game ban. The suspension is in line with a similar hit by Calgary’s Rasmus Andersson that also resulted in four games.
From the NHL’s Department of Player Safety:
After a shot on goal, Ekman-Larsson corrals the puck as McAvoy pinches down from the high slot. Ekman-Larsson moves the puck to a teammate. After the puck is gone, McAvoy finishes a high, hard check that cuts in front of Ekman-Larsson’s core, making his head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable. This is an illegal check to the head.
It is important to note that both elements of the illegal check to the head rule are satisfied on this play. First, the head is the main point of contact, as McAvoy’s shoulder makes direct, forceful contact with Ekman-Larsson’s head and it is the head that absorbs the majority of the force of the check.
Second, the head contact on this play is avoidable. McAvoy chooses an angle of approach that cuts across the front of Ekman-Larsson’s body. If McAvoy wants to deliver this hit, he must stay low and choose an angle that hits through Ekman-Larsson’s shoulder and core rather than one that makes the head the main point of contact.
Ekman-Larsson was evaluated by the Panthers’ medical staff but did return to the game.
McAvoy delivered a similar hit earlier in the game to Florida forward Carter Verhaege. No penalty nor supplemental discipline were issued for that hit.
When asked about the hit by Charlie McAvoy on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Paul Maurice said, “I thought it was exactly like the hit on Verhaeghe in the first.”
Here’s that hit. McAvoy had himself some night. pic.twitter.com/HhTKP7TAXk
— David Dwork (@DavidDwork) October 31, 2023
McAvoy has previously received two disciplinary actions by Player Safety, picking up a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head in 2019 and a fine for tripping in the 2021-22 season.
He forfeits $197,916.68 as a result of the suspension. McAvoy will be eligible to return to the Bruins’ lineup on Saturday, November 11, when they face the Montreal Canadiens.
Last season saw four suspensions for illegal checks to the head; all were three games in length. In fact, no suspension last season was four games. So far in 2023-24, we’ve had two four-game bans.