Senators’ Austin Watson suspended two games for hit on Bruins’ Jack Ahcan

The NHL Department of Player Safety worked swiftly to hold a hearing with Ottawa Senators forward Austin Watson Sunday morning and have acted just as quickly to hand down a suspension. Following a late, high hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Jack Ahcan in the Senators’ Saturday matinee matchup, Watson has received a two-game suspension for interference, the Department of Player Safety announced.

The league summarized the situation as follows:

“Well after the puck is gone and outside the window where a check may be legally finished, Watson delivers a late, high hit that makes significant contact with the head of Ahcan, knocking him to the ice. This is interference… Watson begins his hitting motion well after Ahcan moves the puck… Ahcan has no reason to expect to be hit at this time or in this manner, leaving him particularly vulnerable. In addition to the lateness, what causes this hit to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is the significant head contact on this play, combined with the force of the blow.”

When it comes to the length of Watson’s suspension, he certainly did not receive any in-game help from the referees. The officials in Saturday’s game misread the incident completely, giving Watson just a minor penalty for interference for what should have been at least a major penalty. Especially given that the hit occurred in the first period, had Watson suffered a more severe penalty during the game, he may have avoided a second game in his suspension. To add insult to injury, the officials also handed Bruins forward Anton Blidh a roughing penalty for coming to the defense of Ahcan, which canceled out any Boston power play on what should have been an obvious man-up situation.

Conversely, Watson is saved by the fact that Ahcan was not injured on the play. The rookie defenseman returned to the game as the Bruins held on for a shutout win. The severity of an injury plays into suspension determinations and length and — especially in the case of head injuries — the optics can be a powerful contributor.

Watson will feel the impact of the suspension immediately, as he was preparing to suit up for the second of a weekend back-to-back on Sunday with the Senators on the road in Washington. He will also miss a difficult matchup with St. Louis on Tuesday. Watson is not exactly a key contributor for the Senators, though; he has just three points and minus-8 rating in 31 games. His physicality will be missed, however.

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