Kalman: Bruins rightfully indifferent about potential Sundqvist suspension

Matt Kalman
May 30, 2019 - 2:04 pm

St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist is headed for a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Thursday.

Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk has entered concussion protocol and didn’t travel with the team to St. Louis one day after he was rocked into the glass by Sundqvist in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday..

But both Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy and center Patrice Bergeron had a nuanced view of the hit that might cost the Boston defenseman a few games in the Cup Final, which continues with Game 3 on Saturday with the series tied 1-1 after the Blues' 3-2 overtime win in Game 2.

“I do believe that there’s a different generation that was taught, because those hits – I don’t want to say were more acceptable 20 years ago – [but> happened a lot more, so ... you grew up playing the game, you’re a little less inclined to protect yourself in general,” Cassidy said at Warrior Ice Arena on a Thursday day off for the Bruins. “My feeling on those hits … we’ve been talking about these for what, four, five, six, whatever amount of years, that it’s incumbent on the person delivering the hit to be aware of a player in a prone position. I’ll always believe a player has got to protect himself. They’ve got to put themselves in spots where, you know, but some [hits> are unavoidable.

“So that was a hit that was a prone position, he followed through on the hit, he got penalized for it, I believe he’s having a hearing, so that’s it. They’ll make the decision from there. I’ve always felt it’s on both players to be aware what’s going on. Things happen fast, it’s not the first hit from behind, won’t be the last. And he’ll be held accountable or not and we’ll move on.”

Bergeron was a victim of a much more vicious and avoidable hit from behind into the glass by Philadelphia’s Randy Jones in 2007. Even the Boston center can see where Sundqvist may not have been at fault for any head contact that forced Grzelcyk from the game.

“I mean obviously it’s one of those things where it happens fast on the ice. But on that particular hit I thought Gryzie was kind of facing that way the whole time, you know he was trying to handle the puck and go over to his partner. So it seemed like he was in that position for a little bit of time to give enough time to that guy coming in to maybe change his route or try to avoid the head,” Bergeron said.

“But like I said, it happens fast and it’s not always easy to do so.”

There’s no doubt Grzelcyk had his back turned to Sundqvist for a decent amount of time. Grzelcyk wasn’t eligible to be hit. There’s a penalty on the books for that, it’s called boarding, and that’s what Sundqvist got: two minutes for boarding.

Now you factor in the injury. Grzelcyk might have done a better job protecting himself had he not lost an edge. Things happen fast in hockey and there’s no way Sundqvist was targeting the head. The combination of the size difference between the two players and Grzelcyk’s skate problem created the head contact. This should not warrant a suspension in a league that sells you a combination of world-class speed and immense physicality.

Let’s face it, the Bruins don’t want this type of accidental head contact to be outlawed because they want their players to be able to make similar-type hits and not worry about an accident bringing in the DOPS. That’s why Charlie McAvoy argued his case vehemently before getting a one-game suspension for his hit on Columbus’ Josh Anderson in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round.

I would argue that the other hit from these playoffs that’s being lumped in with the Sundqvist and McAvoy hits – San Jose’s Joe Thornton’s head shot against Vegas’ Tomas Nosek – is actually in a different category

Sundqvist and McAvoy were making hockey plays. Sundqvist is finishing his check; McAvoy is trying to back up his defense partner and cut off Anderson at the blue line. Thornton looks like he sees a chance to nail Nosek, so he takes it with the puck long gone.

The Bruins are being consistent. They argued against the McAvoy suspension and sound indifferent, at best, to Sundqvist getting extra discipline. But the NHL will probably stay consistent and give Sundqvist a game.

It’s time to stop trying to legislate everything that happens in the game that doesn’t look great or has a harmful consequence. Accidents happen, and every one of them doesn’t have to lead to suspension.

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