It may have been just one of a number of egregious missed calls in Game Five, but the NHL Department of Player Safety has decided a high hit that was not called a penalty on the ice is deserving of a one-game suspension. After a hearing with St. Louis Blues forward Ivan Barbashev this morning, Player Safety has announced that he will be suspended for Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final for an illegal check to the head of Boston Bruins counterpart Marcus Johansson. The league explained the decision as such:
As Johansson releases a shot on goal, Barbashev deliver a high, forceful hit that makes Johansson’s head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable. This is an illegal check to the head… The brunt of the impact of this hit is delivered by Barbashev’s shoulder into the head of Johansson… If Barbashev wishes to deliver this check, he must take an angle of approach that hits through Johansson’s near shoulder or core rather than an angle that picks Johansson’s head with his shoulder.
This is was just one of two missed high hits on Bruins players in the game, as defenseman Torey Krug also took a shot from forward Zach Sanford. That’s also not even including an obvious hold, again on Krug, and a blatant slew foot on Noel Acciari that lead to the Blues’ game-winning goal. Boston would likely trade this Barbashev suspension for a correct call in any of those situations.
This is also now the second suspension for the Blues in this series, as Barbashev’s fellow fourth-liner Oskar Sundqvist was suspended for Game Three after boarding Matt Grzelcyk, an incident that has since left the defenseman sidelined. While St. Louis has undoubtedly played a physical game in the city, one that has won them the war of attrition thus far against the Bruins, it’s not unfair that some fans feel they have been headhunting. However, the two suspensions are really more of an indictment on the officiating. Two suspendable offenses in this series have totaled just two minutes of on-ice penalties. Player Safety has had to step in to make the proper calls for them, even if just for the optics of appeasing frustrated fans – and the Bruins. There have certainly been missed calls against the Blues in the series as well, as their have for many teams throughout a postseason that has been difficult for NHL officials.