Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings was the subject of scrutiny by fans, in particular fans wearing blue jerseys with lightning bolts on them. In the final minute of an out of reach game 2, Detroit’s frustration at the referees, and at Tampa’s seemingly unstoppable speed and suffocating forecheck, came to head.
Brad Richard of the Wings got things rolling with a decent after the whistle slash that knocked the stick out of the hands of Tampa defenceman Nikita Nesterov. When another Lightning player stepped in, Abdelkader came to the aid of Richards and evened things out. That’s when Mike Blunden made the unfortunate decision to engage Abdelkader.
The Wings protagonist got a hold of Blunden and proceeded to fire several swift punches to his face, and not showing any particular signs of stopping.
Blunden later emerged from the pile slightly damaged, with blood smeared around his face.
Some feel Abdelkader should have been suspended for his assault. Some feel “that’s just playoff hockey.” I don’t think there should be different standards for the playoffs, at least when it comes to suspensions. That brings me to my 5 reasons why the league was right to not even consider suspending Justin Adbelkader.
1. Max Domi: Back in March, the Arizona Coyote rookie chased Ryan Garbutt of Anaheim through three zones of the ice and jumped him. One game suspension, and not even for the act. He only got a game because it was in the last 5 minutes of a game.
2. Jordan TooToo: A few days later, Devils forward TooToo squared up with Penguins tough guy Tom Sestito. TooToo three haymaker after haymaker even when it was evident Sestito wanted no part of it. It wasn’t even looked at by player safety.
3. Darnell Nurse: Nurse of the Oilers mugged Roman Polak of the Sharks for seemingly no reason as Polak went for a line change. He was given three games, but at least one of those was only because, like Domi’s, the incident happened in the last 5 minutes.
4. TJ Oshie: Again in March, Washington’s Oshie got involved with Sidney Crosby during a scrum. Crosby went down, helmet off. That’s when Oshie took his glove off (showing intent), reached around the linesman (showing he went out of his way to commit the offence), and gave at least three intentionally aimed bareknuckled punches directly to Crosby’s skull. There was another play from this game under review from Player Safety, so you know they were aware of the game and the problems that came out of it. Yet this Oshie thumping was never brought up by anyone on any network. Like it never happened.
5. Nikita Nesterov: Nesterov was right beside Abdelkader assaulting Brad Richards. Yes, Richards had whacked him to start the whole thing, but keep in mind Blunden also approached Adbelkader from the blind side. And when Nesterov really went at Richards he was, like Blunden in a position where he was clearly unable to defend himself.
The league all year has seen things like this as not a big deal. Because of that, the number of incidents escalated near the end of the year. It’s no surprise then that this happened early in the playoffs, especially in a series as tight and intense as this one has been right from the start. I expect it to happen again soon, and any suspension to anyone would be unfair based on the standard already set.