The Dallas Stars finished Game 4 having committed three penalties to put themselves at a manpower disadvantage. Not a bad night, by any means, especially considering the penalty kill has an abysmal 70ish% kill rate in the series versus the St. Louis Blues.
However, one could argue that they played a cleaner game than even those numbers indicated. There was one penalty call that left several Stars fans scratching their heads (and probably yelling expletives at the television screen): a holding call on Cody Eakin late in the first period.
Here's the play in moving picture form thanks to our friends at NBC Sports.
Eakin got elbowed in the head and then called for a holding penalty. How does that make sense? Let's break it down.
Here, you can see Cody Eakin moving towards Alexander Steen, the puck carrier.
As Eakin approaches, Steen is holding onto the puck, and doesn't moved his body too much as he looks for an outlet pass option. Eakin decides to make a play for the puck, and moves his body accordingly.
Steen moves to block Eakin's play, and in doing so, lifts his elbow straight up to where Eakin's head now is due to his body position. It's important to note that the elbowing rule doesn't have the same context as the "hit to the head" rule in which the player being hit in the head can be ruled as having put himself in a vulnerable position to have that part of his body be the principal point of contact based on his own movement. Simply, elbows aren't supposed to make contact with players using this kind of motion.
Why wasn't the elbow to the face called? Probably because the referee, who definitely appears to be looking straight at the play, is blocked from seeing this contact thanks to Eakin's own melon. Steen does make an effort to keep his elbow next to his body, thereby avoiding the "chicken wing" elbow that the refs typically look for. There's a good chance he didn't realize Eakin had made himself pocket-sized and his head was now at elbow level. Still, a sneaky elbowing that easily could have been called as a penalty itself if the ref had the right vantage point to see it.
So how did a hit like this wind up with Eakin taking a penalty? As he bounces back from the impact of Steen, Eakin's hands go up and grab onto the nearest stabilizing object they can find. In this case, Steen's torso.
The movement causes both players to fall to the ice, and as the ref didn't see the initial elbow but does see Eakin's hands pulling Steen down to the ground with him, that is how an elbow to the face ends with you spending two minutes in the box of shame.
Luckily, the Stars were able to kill off the penalty and escape the first period down just one goal.
Game 6 Start Time Set
With the win last night, Dallas ensures that at least six games are played in this series. Game 6, in St. Louis, will be played on Monday, May 9th, with a 7:00 PM CST puck drop.