Armstrong suspension proves NHL system is flawed

It’s becoming such the norm around the hockey universe that it’s
become
exceedingly tiresome to get involved in. Endless debates about whether a
hit or play merits further discipline by the NHL has become the story
of the 2009-10 NHL season, and the fact that these debates continuously
rage proves that the current system is flawed.

The running joke
surrounds the NHL’s “Wheel of Justice”, playing up the arbitrary manner
in which Colin Campbell hands out suspensions. If you want an incredibly
(and scary) accurate portrayal of just how the messed up the NHL
suspension system is, go no further that Down Goes Brown’s NHL
Suspension Flow Chart
.

The latest such example of the
disparity in opinions surrounds the Colby Armstrong two-game suspension
for his flying forearm into the face of Washington’s Mathieu Perreault.
To some — like myself — the hit is immediately worthy of suspension.
Yet others, such as Puck
Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski
, feel that the play was worthy of perhaps a
four-minute roughing penalty and nothing more. He also notes that the
difference in opinion surrounding these plays is what makes the
suspensions so suspect.

The point is that blogs, fans,
coaches, players involved and
referees all viewed the play in different ways; which is a reminder the
entire
Wheel of Justice concept in the NHL is as much due to the bewildering
nature of
hockey plays as it is Colin Campbell’s inconsistency and the NHL’s
ineptitude.
OK, maybe it’s like 30 percent bewildering nature of hockey plays and 70
percent NHL ineptitude, on second thought.

Greg
mentions that the fact that the NHL doesn’t have a clear and
all-encompassing “head shot rule” makes this hit debatable and leads to
questions about the NHL’s decision to hand down a suspension.

Dismissing
the fact that it was a clear hand/forearm/elbow to Perreault’s face,
the fact that there was no penalty handed out for the hit itself is what
raises the biggest red flag. We know that NHL has decided — at the
very last minute — that it can suspend players for blind sided hits to
the head while in-game penalties don’t apply. But what about straight-on
elbows? Did the on-ice officials just miss the call, or did they decide
that it wasn’t an elbow and the hit was more about Perreault trying to
dodge than Armstrong laying out a dirty hit?

In either case, the
inconsistencies between the on-ice calls and the NHL’s decisions is what
makes the system such a joke. Writers and bloggers can debate the hits
all they want, but when the actual NHL officials don’t seem to agree is
when it become much more questionable.

Whatever your views on this
particular hit might be, Armstrong’s response to the suspension this
afternoon is what is most intriguing. Per
Chris Vivlamore of the AJC
Thrashers Blog:

“I reached across with my right
arm. I just tried
to get a piece of him. It happened the way it happened. By no means did I
mean to hit him
high. I’ve always been a guy that with my hits my arms are down. I hit
with my shoulder. I keep my arms in and try to hit the way I’m supposed
to. This one time, I got caught in a head-to-head going at him and he
gave me a couple moves and I just tried to get a piece of him and I paid
the price.”

Armstrong is known for his ability to lay out big open ice hits,
and it was obvious he made a mistake here. That he admits to playing the
hit wrong is perhaps most telling; like Ovechkin’s hit on Campbell, it
wasn’t that it was overtly dirty play is that it was a dangerous and
reckless one.

The NHL says it’s serious about cutting down on head shots, yet refused to years ago to outright ban all such hits. Now it’s starting to come down hard on borderline hits in the face of public scrutiny.

Until the NHL decides to actually be proactive in these matters, the league will forever be a joke when it comes to supplementary discipline.

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    Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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    Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

    Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

    Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

    So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

    As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

    Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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    People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

    Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

    In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

    “He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

    Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

    Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

    Is this time different?

    Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

    Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

    While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

    Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

    He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percenate in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

    Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

    In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

    Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

    The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

    Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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    For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

    On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

    The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

    The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

    The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

    Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

    Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

    (It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

    This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

    Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

    COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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    After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

    Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

    They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

    The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

    The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.