In a series where emotions (and sticks and fists) are running high, the term “playoff hockey” couldn’t apply more. But there’s a line that’s been crossed repeatedly without penalty and it came to a head with the Brooks Orpik suspension for his hit on Oli Maatta in game two.
Regardless of how you feel about the 3 game penalty, all that matters is the giant microscope the players are now under.
Enter Kris Letang. This is a man who played 35 minutes in game two and ended 35% of his shifts without a helmet. The abuse he took that went uncalled would have shattered the spirit of most and aroused some sort of personal vengeance in the form of a stupid penalty.
Why not take the chance? Up until the Orpik suspension the league didn’t really do much to deter it this playoffs. But now, all of a sudden everyone is touchy. Game three would not be the best time to exact revenge.
Yet exact it Letang did as he threw a monster hit against Marcus Johansson, who was left sprawled on the ice but would later return to the game. Johansson was carrying the puck between two Penguins and lost possession just before the non-Norris nominee stepped up and tattooed a big 58 into his chest/shoulder.
With the hockey world, and NHL Player Safety, watching oh so closely, the call for heads to roll is once again bellowing from the rooftops. But in this case the bleeding hearts have nothing. NOTHING.
Was it a head shot? Nope. He targeted the chest. If anything, Johansson’s head hit Letang’s name bar because it was behind Letang’s shoulder. Was it an elbow? Not a chance. A charge? Less than two strides. Late? .64 seconds? I think the .04 is covered by the two minute penalty by the on ice official. But it was a violent, open ice hit! A guy was hurt! It was so fast! That can’t be allowed! That can’t be a hockey play!
The only way to stop hits like his from happening is to ban hitting. Sorry folks. You’ve. Got. Nothing.