Depending on which locker room you’re in, your view of Anders Lee’s hit on Nicklas Backstrom on Wednesday may vary.
Islanders head coach Barry Trotz called the hit a “hockey play.” Washington Capitals bench boss Todd Reirden called it “late” and “predatory.”
Backstrom and Lee collided early in the first period. Lee was coming across and hit Backstrom in the chest with a hard hit. The Capitals forward did not have the puck at the time of the hit.
Backstrom finished out the rest of the first period, but did not return for the rest of the game. Lee was given a two-minute minor for roughing and dropped the gloves with Tom Wilson later in the game as the Capitals looked for retribution.
“Anders is making a hockey play,” Trotz said after the game. “Unfortunately, I don’t know if Nick was ready or not, but when you’re at the blue line and you come laterally you’re running into traffic. Anders was a strong guy. The hit was made and then they responded. Wilson went after Lee, they fought and that’s probably the end of it. We’ll see.
The Capitals didn’t sound as though they were ready to put the incident to bed after the game. Both Washington’s coach and players expressed their displeasure with the hit when they met the media.
“It was a late hit on an unexpected player that was in a spot that was extremely vulnerable,” Reirden said. “Those are some things we saw there. It’s as simple as that. Late hit. The Player wasn’t expecting it and it was predatory.”
There will not be any further supplementary discipline from the NHL on Lee for the hit, Arthur Staple confirmed. The Capitals will have an update on Backstrom’s status on Thursday.
“It looked real dirty to me,” said John Carlson, who jumped in to defend Backstrom after the hit. “I think when a guy is kind of coming up and looking back at the pass, I’ve heard it a lot over the years that they’re trying to take that out of the game. More than anything, as a player that’s been around, you sense the impact.
“Nicky doesn’t get hit very often. So that should tell you all you need to know. He’s probably one of the most aware players in the league.”
Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson talk to the media after a 4-2 loss in Game 1 against the New York Islanders pic.twitter.com/5lKXeWkQCV
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) August 12, 2020
The Caps and Islanders are no strangers to controversial hits during a playoff series. The two clubs found themselves in a similar situation during their 2015 First Round meeting when Tom Wilson leveled Lubomir Visnovsky with a big hit near the end boards.
Wilson was assessed a minor penalty and the Islanders were fuming postgame about the hit. The two clubs drastically differed on the legality of the hit and it became focal point the rest of the series. Coincidentally, the Capitals head coach at the time was none other than Barry Trotz.
Now, four years later, the two teams find themselves in a similar situation.