The San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights seem destined for a first-round collision in the playoffs and the hype for that divisional rivalry series only increased last night after their final regular season meeting. A 4-3 overtime win for the Sharks, the game ended late but the contention started early as future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton and infamous grinder Ryan Reaves got into in the first period. The sparring between the two led to what appeared to be an intentional high stick from Thornton, who shoved the butt end of this stick into Reaves’ neck area. Reaves retaliated and ended up earning a ten-minute misconduct in addition to a two-minute minor for roughing, while Thornton only received a minor for high sticking. Late in the game, Reaves retaliated again with a high stick of his own on Thornton, which was not caught by the referees.
It was however caught by the NHL Department of Player Safety. Player Safety reviewed the incidents and have decided that supplemental discipline is necessary, but the altercation was not suspension-worthy for either player. Instead, they settled on enforcing matching fines for each case of intentional high-sticking. Both Thornton and Reaves have been fined $2,500 for high-sticking, Player Safety announced.
The league’s response to Thornton’s and Reaves’ actions seems fair for now, but the big question is how they will act if the two continue to battle outside the rules when these two teams clash in the postseason. Reaves isn’t exactly one to forget grudges, while Thornton is well beyond the point in his career where he is willing to put up with disrespect. The two seems almost guaranteed to go at each other in the first round and Player Safety may have to decide whether more fine will be enough if the altercations continue or grow more dangerous. A suspension in the playoffs, even a one-game ban, is usually reserved for major incidences, but Thornton and Reaves might not be slowed by fines for further aggression and could be a cause for concern over a four-to-seven game stretch.