The Department of Player Safety has decided on a two-game suspension for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk. The reason for the suspension was a dangerous knee on Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin, which caused the third period of last night’s game to become a “gong show” according to Auston Matthews. As the accompanying video explains:
It is important to note that Pionk is in control of this play. We acknowledge Pionk’s argument that this is an attempted full body check, but this play cannot be classified as merely a collision between players where one or both move reflexively or defensively at the last moment to avoid contact.
If he wants to deliver this hit, the onus is on Pionk to take an angle of approach that ensures that he is in a good position to make a legal, full body check. Instead, having taken an angle which has him lined up outside of Sandin’s path, Pionk turns his right leg and extends his knee, jutting it forward to avoid missing the check entirely.
Not only is Pionk getting suspended, but Toronto’s Jason Spezza will have an in-person hearing tomorrow to determine what level of supplementary discipline will follow his retaliatory hit on the Jets’ defenseman.
The fact that Pionk’s hit went unpenalized by the on-ice officials, along with the fact that Sandin suffered what appears to be a serious injury on the play, helped make the decision on a two-game suspension. Pionk will miss games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Seattle Kraken as he serves his time.