The Detroit Red Wings will be without their top defenseman Niklas Kronwall for Game 7 on Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Kronwall was suspended for 1 game for “Charging” after he laid one of his patented “Kronwalled” hits on Tampa F Nikita Kucherov. As hard as it is to admit, the suspension was justified. What’s a little more difficult to admit, is that the NHL is treating this case just like any other questionable hit in the playoffs.
Let’s begin with the basics. Kronwall deserved to get suspended. If you disagree, then you need to read the NHL Rulebook, or take a human anatomy class. Kronwall not only hit Kucherov in the head, but he left his feet to deliver a hit on an opponent. “Charging” is probably the worst rule in hockey because in order to define what “charging” is, the NHL actually uses the word “charge”. Here it is according to the Rule 42.1 of the NHL Rulebook: A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner. Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.
Kronwall leaps to hit Kucherov and hits him in the face. It doesn’t matter if Kucherov is hunched over or whatever, the way the rule is written places all responsibility on the hitter. Suspension justified, and the NHL got the call correct.
Where this all gets fishy is the lack of precedent set by the league by handing down suspensions in the playoffs. Detroit fans are livid (and they have a right to be) that the hit by Kronwall has been the only play that’s drawn a suspension thus far in the playoffs. Remember Montreal’s P.K. Subban going all Paul Bunyan on Ottawa’s Mark Stone? That drew no supplemental discipline from the NHL. Stone suffered a serious injury, and Subban (although never suspended) has been fined 3 times in his NHL career.
Let’s also point out that Tampa forward Ondrej Palat laid a pretty dirty looking hit on Luke Glendening in Game 6, one that went uncalled by the officials on the ice and no review by the NHL. Take a look:
Ondrej Palat hit on Luke Glendening pic.twitter.com/5e8lmIa0GJ
— Austin (@austin__burnett) April 27, 2015
Pretty obvious hit to the head in my opinion. Yet it draws nothing from the league. Let’s flashback to the 1st round last year against Boston when Bruins F Milan Lucic attempted to destroy Danny DeKeyser’s family jewels:
Kronwall should've done this, he would've only got fined $5,000. pic.twitter.com/svodIxZXkj
— Raymond Bennett (@RaymondXBennett) April 28, 2015
Surely that would draw a suspension, right? Nope, just a slap on the wrist. And finally, go back to 2012, and the infamous Shea Weber incident where he smashed Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the turnbuckle.
Weber actually broke Zetterberg’s helmet, but did that get the attention of the NHL? Of course not.
Every hockey fan knows the rulebook gets trimmed in the playoffs, and even more so in playoff overtime. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a debate for a different day. Did the NHL make the correct call in suspending Nik Kronwall? Probably. But it made the wrong call by treating this differently than it has in the past. Kucherov suffered no injury, Kronwall has no history of supplemental discipline (although he’s walked a fine line before), and the hit didn’t warrant a penalty on the ice. Be careful, NHL. All eyes are now on your Department of Player Safety to show consistency, during the regular season, and in the playoffs.