Tonight’s 3-2 overtime win by the Pittsburgh Penguins over the New York Islanders will go in the books as one of the more curiously officiated games in the early part of the season. While there were their fair share of eyebrow-raising calls going against both teams, one call that went against Pittsburgh is going to get a little bit of attention. Sportsnet tells the story of what went down.
During the second period, Letang took out Blake Comeau with a blindside hit. Comeau’s helmet went flying after the collision and he remained down on the ice for a time, but he stayed in the game.
On the replay it appeared Letang’s hit was shoulder-to-shoulder and not directly to the head. Comeau’s head was down as he attempted to handle the puck.
Letang was assessed a five-minute major for an “illegal check to the head” and given a game misconduct.
Here’s video of the hit from YouTube in case you want to see what actually went down. We know that describing it with words doesn’t quite do it justice, but frankly neither did the referee’s call in this case. The Islanders were able to score on the ensuing power play and while it didn’t ultimately hurt the Penguins as far as the outcome goes, the punishment for Letang could effect him in the future.
With the NHL’s new rules regarding blows to the head, Letang’s game misconduct could get him a one-game suspension should he get another game misconduct for an illegal check to the head in the future. For any future penalties like that an extra game will be added to the suspension. Getting this penalty to Letang rescinded would save him the trouble of potentially missing time in the future should he get booked for the penalty again.
The issue here with this new penalty, of course, is that officials are overly aware of it and sensitive to any kind of hit because no official wants to be the guy that misses that sort of call and ends up on a highlight reel of missed calls back at the league office. Of course, you could just talk to Carolina coach Paul Maurice about that sort of thing instead.