Craig Anderson, Tom Kostopoulos

Tom Kostopoulos handed six-game suspension for blindside hit; was it the right call?

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The NHL’s crackdown on blindside hits has gotten plenty of discussion this year thanks to the addition of Rule 48 to the NHL rulebook. Calgary’s Tom Kostopoulos got to find out just how serious the NHL is taking things regarding things as he’s been given a six-game suspension for delivering a blindside shot to the head of Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart. Stuart’s jaw was broken by the hit and he’s out for 6-8 weeks.

In the NHL’s statement on why they levied such a harsh punishment on Kostopoulos, there’s a snippet in there that’s making our collective eyebrows raise. From the NHL’s press release:

“A number of factors were considered in reaching this decision,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.

“Kostopoulos delivered a blow to the head of an unsuspecting and vulnerable player. As well, he targeted the head of his opponent and, while the hit was not from the blindside, the head was the principle point of contact. The fact that Brad Stuart was not in possession of the puck when the blow was delivered and the serious nature of the player’s injury were also considered in my decision.”

The key for any and all punishment handed out by the NHL is that it’s the action that should be punished and not the result. The result in this case was a heinous injury to an unsuspecting player. The action, of course, was a disgusting act of gross negligence on the part of Tom Kostopoulos in taking a run at a player that had no way of protecting himself from the hit during the course of play.

Considering that the league made it apparent that they took Stuart’s injury into account when handing down this action is just mind-numbing when you consider previous instances where players suffered a horrible injury and the offending players came away with a slap on the wrist because taking the after effects into account wasn’t fair to make a clear judgment.

So which is it then? The NHL can’t have their cake and eat it too when it comes to these sorts of things. We all want the league to be able to get things right when punishing players that run afoul of the law, but when you see guys like Matt Cooke get away with knocking Marc Savard out for months without so much as a one-game punishment and then see a hit like this on Stuart and Kostopoulos get hammered for it you have to wonder just how smokey the smokey room is where Colin Campbell and Mike Murphy make these decisions.

Again, it’s tough to get crazy about how the NHL goes about making these decisions because it’s always something new and different in each situation. After all, we’ve seen three different players sucker punch an opponent and all three players received different punishment from the league. All we’re looking for is consistency from the front office on these matters and the fact is that there is none. In this case, Calgary loses a fourth line player for six games while the Red Wings are without a top four defenseman for up to two months. The NHL may think they’re sending a message on this punishment, but it might not be the one they’re intending.

Colorado inks defensive prospect Anton Lindholm

LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 07: Anton Lindholm #5 of Team Sweden skates against Team USA during the 2013 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 7, 2013 in Lake Placid, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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After establishing himself in the Swedish league, Anton Lindholm will head to North America.

The Colorado Avalanche announced that they have signed the 21-year-old defenseman to a three-year, entry-level contract. They selected Lindholm in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

More of a defensive defenseman, Lindholm only registered four assists in 30 Swedish league games with Skelleftea AIK in 2015-16, but he also had a team-high 85 hits despite missing a chunk of the season due to injury. During the playoffs he helped his team reach the SHL Finals by leading them in both hits and blocked shots.

That was his second full campaign with Skelleftea AIK. The next step for Lindholm will likely be for him to continue his development in the AHL.

PHT Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby eyes more history

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks to face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Bob McKenzie shares his memories of Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie, who apparently was a big hockey fan. (TSN)

Don Cherry discusses John Brophy’s toughness after the former Leafs coach recently passed away. (Sportsnet)

 

A look at Vincent Lecavalier‘s career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

The perils of flip-flopping goalies in the playoffs … although it worked out for the Penguins at least last night. (The Hockey News)

Speaking of which, will the Blues get burned for switching back to Brian Elliott in Game 6 tonight? Here’s a preview:

Sidney Crosby has a chance to join a very rare club of clutch goal-scorers if he can win it for Pittsburgh in Game 7:

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.