Evgeni Malkin accepts suspension, believes Raffl ‘dove’

20 Comments

Evgeni Malkin did not play in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night because he was serving a one-game suspension for violently swinging his stick at Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl.

For Malkin, the play resulted in his second match penalty of the season and even though there is some debate as to where the stick actually hit Raffl, it was still an ugly incident that warranted a suspension.

On Friday, Malkin spoke about the suspension, and while he accepted his punishment, he made it clear that he was not happy with the circumstances surrounding the event, while also accusing Raffl of taking a dive. What angered him the most during the game was that he was punched in the back of the neck by the Flyers forward just before swinging his stick. That came in Malkin’s return to the lineup after he missed five games due to what he revealed on Thursday was a neck injury.

He also argued to the league that his stick didn’t actually hit Raffl’s face.

Via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“Yes and no,” Malkin responded when asked whether he agreed with the suspension. “One game probably, it’s OK. I play dangerous. My stick went high. My point [to the NHL] was that I didn’t touch his face. I touched his shoulder. I think he dove.”

Several things can all be true at the same time with this incident.

Yes, Raffl’s punch should have warranted a penalty and Malkin is right to be upset that one was not called. That should not be something that is simply tolerated as being part of the game.

But it is also true that Malkin can not react the way he did and swing his stick in the manner in which he did. There is no justification for that no matter what preceded it, and whether or not he hit Raffl’s shoulder or face should irrelevant because the intent in what he was trying to do there was clear. He was using his hockey stick as a weapon and that should always warrant a punishment.

He is lucky that it wasn’t worse, and had his stick — or Raffl’s head been — an inch or two closer we probably would have been looking at an incident and suspension that were both significantly worse.

Flyers coach Scott Gordon responded to Malkin’s comments on Thursday and wasn’t interested in giving him credit for missing Raffl’s face.

Via the Courier Post:

“Well it wasn’t a high stick, right? It was a baseball swing,” Gordon said. “Just because you don’t connect doesn’t mean that it wasn’t vicious. It’s a tough call. There was intent to swing hard and he did but it didn’t connect. I don’t think you reward a player because he didn’t connect.”

He is not wrong.

The two teams meet Saturday, Feb. 23 (8 p.m. ET; NBC) in the 2019 Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

It will certainly be interesting.

Related: Evgeni Malkin suspended one game

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Crosby’s Penguins vs. McDavid’s Oilers on NBCSN

Leave a comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Never beating the Pittsburgh Penguins when Sidney Crosby‘s been in the lineup is the least of Connor McDavid‘s concerns, but it’s one of the many ways you can remind people that the Edmonton Oilers haven’t really put him in a position to succeed.

It’s almost too fitting that McDavid’s been fantastic in the five Oilers losses against the Penguins, generating nine points in those games, but not yet getting the win.

[Comparing McDavid’s early days to Lemieux’s troubles]

Both superstar players are hurting for a win, but not really because of an easily packaged rivalry.

Instead, their teams simply need it. The Oilers are a Dumpster fire right now, with things being so bad that Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussed rumblings about Ken Hitchcock straight-up wanting to walk away.

Things aren’t as dour for the Penguins, but they don’t have a large margin for error when it comes to making the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so they’ll be keyed-in. With injuries mounting for the Pens, they might ask Crosby to do even more than usual. McDavid can relate.

One benefit for McDavid is that Evgeni Malkin won’t suit up, as he’s serving a one-game suspension for his wild stick-swinging at Flyers forward Michael Raffl.

Is it too greedy to hope that all of these circumstances will lead to another great duel between number 87 and number 97? Maybe, but let’s cross our fingers for that, anyway.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Oilers-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

OILERS

Leon Draisaitl — Connor McDavid — Zack Kassian

Jujhar KhairaRyan Nugent-HopkinsJesse Puljujarvi

Milan Lucic — Brad Malone — Alex Chiasson

Tobias RiederColby CaveTy Rattie

Oscar KlefbomAdam Larsson

Darnell NurseKris Russell

Alexander PetrovicKevin Gravel

Starting goalie: Mikko Koskinen

PENGUINS

Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Bryan Rust

Tanner PearsonNick BjugstadPhil Kessel

Teddy Blueger — Jared McCannPatric Hornqvist

Zach Aston-ReeseMatt CullenGarrett Wilson

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Juuso RiikolaJack Johnson

Marcus PetterssonChad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

John Forslund (play-by-play), U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk (analyst), and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Pa. Pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh alongside Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Bob McKenzie. Additionally, Kathryn Tappen will be providing reports and conducting interviews on-site in Pittsburgh.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Penguins’ Malkin suspended one game for swinging stick at Flyers’ Raffl

15 Comments

The NHL suspended Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin for a high-sticking incident where he swung his stick from “a dangerous height in arc toward” Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl.

Malkin was ejected from the game on Monday, which the Penguins ultimately won 4-1.

The league’s explanation is quite interesting, as it’s noted that a stick infraction can draw supplementary discipline, whether contact is actually made or not:

As you can see, the Department of Player Safety’s explanation video cites rule 60.4:

via NHL

This can be seen as a response to Malkin’s comments after the game, not to mention potential complaints from Penguins fans.

“I’m not trying to hit his face. … I know it’s dirty, but I missed,” Malkin said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He just like dived and the referee give me five minutes. [He wasn’t] injured, not bleeding, nothing.”

The league notes Malkin’s history of fines in its explanation, and there’s no denying that Malkin’s lost his cool on the ice quite a few times over the years, particularly if you go beyond the “history” that tends to count as far as supplemental discipline is concerned.

(You could probably put together a lowlight reel of his run-ins with the Flyers, alone.)

The edge Malkin plays will likely helps him become such a dominant force. When the Russian center gets a full head of steam, he can sometimes seem like a runaway train, and it must be frightening for opponents to try to deal with Malkin at his best.

Perhaps that can become a double-edged sword, though, as sometimes Malkin’s emotions get the best of him. As just another recent example: fighting with Steven Stamkos may have been ill-advised, as his injury might have stemmed from that bout.

The Penguins will take the good that comes with the very sporadic bad when it comes to Malkin, but if you’ve followed his career, it’s something that sprouts up from time to time, sometimes in dramatic ways.

Malkin won’t be able to play Wednesday’s NBCSN game against the Edmonton Oilers, while he’ll be eligible to return against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. Perhaps the silver lining is that, if Malkin is still recovering a bit, this gives him more time to heal up?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Penguins’ Malkin ejected after swinging stick at head of Flyers’ Raffl

16 Comments

Oh, boy. This is a no-no. And Evgeni Malkin will have to answer for his stick-swinging antics.

The Pittsburgh Penguins forward let his emotions get the best of him and it could cost him more than just the match penalty he received in Monday’s 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Late in the third period with the Penguins leading the game comfortably 3-0, Flyers forward Michael Raffl and Malkin got tangled up in the neutral zone.

Raffl took a swipe at the back of Malkin’s head with his fist. Malkin, displeased with this, swung around, bringing his stick with him up high and grazing Raffl in the head.

Thankfully, Raffl was fine as that could have ended up much, much worse. Sure, the punch to the back of the head wasn’t nice, but trying to Marty McSorely someone is no way to respond to it.

Malkin, who was quickly escorted off the ice, just returned to the lineup on Monday after missing five games with an upper-body injury. The Penguins sorely missed him, going 1-3-1 in his absence.

George Parros and the NHL’s Department of Player Safety came to the conclusion quickly that the play warranted a review. Malkin has never been suspended during his 13-year career but he was fined $5,000 last year for spearing Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown.

“I know it was dirty,” Malkin said after the game, adding that he didn’t think he hit Raffl.

Malkin said he needs to be smarter next time.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Penguins’ Murray stifles Flyers with career-high 50 saves in win

3 Comments

The Philadelphia Flyers certainly deserved a better fate on Monday. But try as you might in the NHL, what you deserve isn’t always what you get.

The Flyers will attest to that. They pelted Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray with 51 shots, including 28 in the second period — setting a franchise record — but had nothing to show for it after three periods.

The 24-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup winner was equal to the task in a 4-1 win, making stop after stop, especially during that second-period siege.

Pittsburgh’s win was a big one, snapping a four-game losing streak that had us here at PHT wondering if the Penguins were in danger missing the playoffs. The win will quell that thought for a moment

Flyers rookie netminder Carter Hart brought with him an eight-game winning streak into the game. A ninth straight would have set a record for the longest streak by a goalie before his 21sts birthday, but alas, he’ll have to share the spoils with former Quebec Nordiques goalie Jocelyn Thibault.

Hart was bound to lose at some point, but he had a .934 save percentage during the streak and shouldn’t have an issue bouncing back.

The Pens got Evgeni Malkin back after he missed five games with an upper-body injury. Malkin’s presence was felt in the second period after he set up Nick Bjugstad for his first in Pittsburgh threads.

But Malkin’s return to the lineup may be short-lived.

Late in the third period, Malkin took exception to a punch to the back of his head from Flyers forward Michael Raffl. Malkin lost his cool and swung his stick around at Raffl’s head, catching him up high.

Malkin was handed a match penalty.

The Flyers finally scored on the ensuing power play, with Jakub Voracek grabbing his 14th to end the shutout bid.

The game could have been different, too, after a second-period goal by Nolan Patrick was waved off after a quick whistle by the referee. The replay shows that the puck was still loose.

The Flyers continued their onslaught one the game resumed, but it was a definite miss and one that could have changed the complexion of the game.

Jake Guntzel and Kris Letang both scored in the third for Pittsburgh.

Letang’s was particularly noteworthy, despite it being a rolling puck that found the empty net. The goal was career marker No. 109, making him the top goal-scoring defenseman in franchise history, passing Paul Coffey.

Letang now holds Penguins defenseman records for games played, goals, assists, and points along with playoff games played, playoff goals, playoff assists and playoff points.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck