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.

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?