NHL Playoffs and Player Discipline

While we haven’t had the time to properly introduce ourselves as a group yet, I could not think of a better way to introduce myself and my passion for the Washington Capitals.

Monday night, game 3 of the eastern conference semi-finals, the Capitals faced the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the series tied 1-1, the Capitals were in a two goal hole at the end of the first period when forward Marcus Johansson (MoJo) took a hit to the head and neck area from Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. Marcus was led back to the locker room for examination and eventually returned to the game, but not before the NBC commentary and intermission report teams stuck up for Letang. Both commentary teams downplayed the brutality of the hit by referencing a hit dished out in game 2 by Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, which drew a 3 game suspension. Orpik’s hit was dirty and he has since admitted that fact.

When it comes to player safety, I’ll be the first to admit that I am a hypocrite. Whether it is hockey or football, I love big hits and appreciate a physically demanding game; however, I also believe that a big hit should never be delivered to the head and neck area in any sport. I am guessing that most of you will agree that contact to the head and neck is inevitable in hockey and football as accidents do happen, but intentional contact to that area is avoidable.

With that in mind, consider the following:

The NHL has a history of enforcing shorter suspension lengths during the playoffs due to the significant impact a suspension has on a playoff series.

It’s gotten so bad, that there is a website mocking this fact by using a toggle switch to engage a playoff mode, which then shortens the lengths of the suspensions.

How do we fix the discrepancy between the suspensions issued by the NHL in the regular season vs. the playoffs? Why is there a discrepancy? Should we fix the discrepancy? While it is obvious that suspensions of any kind have significant impact on playoff series, is the NHL potentially taking a different stance because they are afraid to alter a series and affect the viewership?

If the department of player safety is serious about player safety, is it time for them to put their foot down and start suspending players in the playoffs for the same amount of games as they would in the regular season?

If that were the case, the Capitals would be without Orpik for the rest of the series and potentially half of the next if they make it that far; however, would that have been enough to discourage Letang from delivering a hit to the head and neck area of MoJo? We’ll never know, but I’m hoping the NHL finds a way to consistently punish players and deter any further hits to the head and neck area.

Take a look at the hit and the NHL’s reasoning for the 1 game suspension for Letang:

For good measure, I’ll include the Orpik player safety decision as well:


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