NHL Player Safety hypocrisy


During Tuesday night’s game won by the Rangers 5-3 over the Avalanche, rookie defenseman Ryan Lindgren delivered a vicious hit on puck carrier Joonas Donskoi that knocked the Colorado forward to the ice. On the play, Donskoi never saw Lindgren due to Filip Chytil.

The end result was Lindgren coming across and catching Donskoi with a clean shoulder check that ended his night. It was the kind of hit we used to see from Scott Stevens. The Devils legend was known for punishing players in fragile positions. Eric Lindros, Ron Francis and Shane Willis could all testify to that.

Following the game which also saw Nazem Kadri make a bee line for Lindgren to pummel him in a onesided fight that ended his night as well, Colorado coach Jared Bednar complained in his post game interview about the big hit. Not surprisingly, the NHL Department Of Player Safety has decided to review the hit to determine if there will be supplementary discipline.

My reaction to it was more about the inconsistency of Player Safety. Where were they after Ryan Ellis elbowed Pavel Buchnevich? A dirty play the respected Nashville defenseman only received a minor penalty on despite Buchnevich needing concussion protocol to make sure he was okay. They never bothered to review the hit.

If you compare Ellis’s elbow which was directly to Buchnevich’s head with Lindgren, who landed a shoulder to the upper chest and head of a prone Donskoi, you could make a case that the Ellis hit was worse due to it being an elbow that was a direct head shot. Here is the Lindgren hit on Donskoi:

The case for a suspension is that they can rule that it was an illegal check to the head. Even if Lindgren didn’t leave his feet and led with his shoulder, there was head contact. Though the principle point of contact was shoulder to chest with Donskoi in a prone position.

Regarding the particulars before tomorrow’s home match against the Devils, it is a telephone hearing. So if Lindgren does get suspended, it’ll likely be for one game. If that’s the case, the team could just shift Brendan Smith to defense and rotate him for some fourth line shifts.

The issue is when it comes to Player Safety, nobody knows what they’ll review and what they’ll ignore. They suspended Corey Perry for an elbowing major in the Winter Classic between Dallas and Nashville. That was warranted. If only there was more consistency.

In reference to Stevens, I don’t imagine he’d enjoy playing under today’s rules where there’s a microscope. He was the best open ice hitter who brought the intimidation factor. Hitting is part of the game. So is fighting. As we saw last night, sometimes they go hand in hand as Lindgren found out.

There will be a decision soon.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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