Oilers star expected to avoid suspension for controversial hit in Game 2 of SCF

    The Florida Panthers might not have captain Aleksander Barkov for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday after he was on the receiving end of a high hit from Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl in the Panthers’ 4-1 Game 2 win.

    While Barkov’s status remains a little uncertain, we do know that Draisaitl is expected to be in the lineup and is not expected to face a suspension for the hit.

    Midway through the second period of Monday’s game, Draisaitl caught Barkov with a high hit to the head that knocked the Panthers’ captain out of the game. 

    Draisaitl was assessed a two-minute minor for roughing.

    Here is a look at the play from multiple angles.

    Not only does he appear to lead directly into Barkov’s head with an elbow, he also appears to leave his feet prior to making contact. It is a very problematic hit even before you get into the injury that happened.
    Only making it a two-minute penalty during the game seems light.

    Not issuing a suspension — or even a fine — seems like the NHL is outright condoning this type of play.

    The NHL’s Department of Player Safety is always a lightning rod for criticism concerning its decisions, and this play is definitely going to be added to its lengthy and problematic list of decisions. 

    Adding to the controversy is the real legitimate question of whether or not the league would act differently if this was a regular season game and not a Stanley Cup Final game. 

    There is a world of difference in importance between Game 48 in the regular season and a potential season-shifting game in the Stanley Cup Final. For the league to suspend one of its elite players — which Draisaitl is — it would have to be an overly egregious play that goes far and away across the line. 

    This hit, as controversial and ugly as it might have been, probably does not reach that level. 

    The NHL’s referees hate to get in the way of determining playoff games by calling too many penalties. The league offices seem to have the same approach. 

    Game 3 of the series is in Edmonton on Thursday night. The Panthers have a 2-0 series lead after winning the first two games of the series on home ice. 

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