Avs dominate Sabres, Eichel receives two game suspension
Saturday at Pepsi Center – an afternoon game was all the Colorado Avalanche needed to regain some confidence after a brutal loss in Dallas of 4-0 on Thursday. The 30-29-9 Buffalo Sabres arrived for their only game in Denver this season for the matinee.
Things became chippy quickly when former Sabres 1st round pick Nikita Zadorov laid a heavy hit on captain Jack Eichel, completely ripping his helmet from his head. Angry that Zadorov revealed Eichel’s clown hair, Jeff Skinner jumped into the mix only to be slammed by Avalanche star Mikko Rantanen. The whistle blew, indicating an offsides call on the Sabres. Zadorov was well on his way to laying a hit on Eichel, and Eichel was seemingly pissed that the hit came after the whistle. To be fair, the hit WAS after the whistle, but if the play was onside there would have been no problem with the hit. Rantanen, Zadorov and Skinner all received matching penalties for the altercation.
Nikita Zadorov has a large presence on the ice for the Avalanche, and not just because of his 6’5″, 221 pound stature. One of the team’s heaviest hitters, he led the league in hits in the 2017-2018 season. Affectionately known as “Big Z” (not to be confused with Bruins Zdeno Chara), Zadorov was traded from the Sabres along with Mikhail Grigorenko, then-prospect JT Compher and a draft pick for Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn back in 2015.
The hit in question came with just a few minutes to play in the second period. Colorado was up 1-0 when Eichel and Carl Soderberg go head to elbow for what the refs ultimately ruled an “illegal check to the head”. As an incredibly biased Avs fan, it’s clear that Soderberg was hit at a bad angle and the penalty would have been a major if he had stayed on the ground any longer. That being said, the angle that Soderberg went for the puck was too low and he should have kept his head up higher to avoid the elbow to the face. I wouldn’t necessarily call Eichel’s hit a “cheap shot” because he was planning on hitting Soderberg any way, but it was too low on a player who was already low to the ground, sniffing out the puck.
The Avs won the game 3-0, awarding Philipp Grubauer his second shut-out win of the season and the 2 point victory they so desperately needed in their race to the playoffs.
Today, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced Eichel would receive a hearing for the illegal check to the head from Saturday’s game. View the full explanation of the suspension below.
Luckily, these two teams won’t see each other again until next season.