Gary Bettman thinks rule changes will make a big dent in concussion rates

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concussionsavard.jpgBuried in a rather standard “let’s make next year better than last, even though the 2009-10 season was really great” type statement from Gary Bettman is an interesting claim. As you may remember from approximately 3,000 posts* late last season, the NHL faced some serious problems with hits to the head and Bettman seems confident that the changes made will make a big difference.

* – This is an exaggeration.

In fact, Bettman seems to think it might cut concussions in half. (source: NHL.com)

Bettman said the NHL already has seen the benefits of looking ahead in the adoption of the rules package instituted for this season that will significantly reduce the number of hits to the head players experience during NHL play. Those rules came about after the League looked comprehensively at concussion data and the way the NHL game had evolved and arrived at a solution to reduce the amount of dangerous hitting that had crept into the game.

“It became abundantly clear to us that a lateral or blindside hit where the primary point of contact or the focus of the hit was the head — even if delivered by a shoulder — was devastating and we needed, based on how the game evolved, to get it out of the game,” Bettman said.

Bettman believes the impact of removing those hits will be one of the main storylines of the 2010-11 season.

“We think, based on the research — and I don’t want to oversell this — that the rule change made by the general managers could reduce concussions by up to 50 percent,” Bettman said. “If that is the case, it will have been a dramatic step forward.”

Actually, I think predicting that concussions will be cut by half is a pretty good example of “overselling” it.

While it would be great if such a change would reduce concussions that drastically, chances are it will take time (and probably other measures, like improving helmets along with developing consistency with suspensions) to make such a significant dent. Still, it’s nice that the NHL is at least putting an emphasis on ridding the game of dirty hits, even when it’s not the hot topic in hockey-free August.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.