Bruins forward David Pastrnak has been suspended for two games by the NHL for an illegal check to the head of New York Rangers' Dan Girardi in Boston’s 5-2 loss on Wednesday night in New York.
Those around the Bruins, as you might expect, aren’t happy about the ruling on a hit that was definitely borderline and authored by a player who has barely registered any kind of hits in the first few seasons of his young career.
Click on the link in the tweet below for a video of the hit and the NHL Department of Player Safety's explanation of the suspension, but this is the gist: Pastrnak “made head contact on a play where head contact was clearly avoidable” and the Bruins forward “unnecessarily extended up and into the head” of Girardi on the collision.
Claude Julien took issue with the Pastrnak hit being labeled dirty and clearly didn’t quite understand why his young star was even having a hearing over a mid-ice collision that simply looked like a strong hit through the body as the main point of contact when viewed in slow-motion.
“To me I see a guy [in David Pastrnak] whose feet are still on the ice. Sometimes players are in vulnerable positions, and sometimes it’s their own doing other times it’s just a part of the game, and you do what you have to do there. But I don’t think there was any attempt to injure the player there. I just think that was an attempt to finish his check, but certainly not to injure,” said Julien. “His foot is on the ice. You can see the snow coming off his blade, so it’s not like he never slowed down with the foot that was on the ice.
“He didn’t go full tilt. He tried to control his check. If you look at it in slow-motion it’s pretty self-explanatory: he doesn’t jump up and he goes through [the body]. When you go through body eventually the skates do come up with the flow [of the hit], but he didn’t jump up in the air and land on the guy.”
The two-game suspension is Pastrnak’s first brush with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Clearly, the DoPS felt that the 20-year-old did make contact with Girardi’s head and that it was Pastrnak’s responsibility to make sure there wasn’t any contact to the head in such a violent collision. While some might have argued it should have been a one-game suspension, the DoPS usually doesn’t go any less than two games in suspensions involving checks to the head.
Some of it might come down to Pastrnak just being unfamiliar with exactly how to deliver a clean, hard body check in that situation, given his inexperience playing that kind of game. Conventional thinking was that his first-time offender status would have got him with a stern warning from the league.
But there’s also a bright side to this entire Pastrnak suspension situation, believe it or not.
It’s been plainly obvious Pastrnak is playing more of a physical game at close to 190 pounds entering this season, and it’s a part of the driving force behind his strong start with a team-leading five goals in seven games this season. The Bruins will miss him for the next two games, Saturday in Detroit and Tuesday in Florida, but they’ll benefit from a player in Pastrnak that’s no longer shying away from the battle or hesitating to stick his nose in there while playing a key top-six role.
The Bruins were facing an uphill battle against both divisional opponents prior to the NHL suspending Pastrnak for the games.
The hit came when Girardi reached up to catch a puck in the neutral zone 10:55 into the second period and Pastrnak came in hard and sent his left shoulder into Girardi’s chin. Pastrnak received a two-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head. Girardi left the game as part of the NHL concussion protocol, but later returned with no apparent injury.