by PuckStopsHere on 04/18/09 at 02:03 AM ET
With seven seconds left in game one of the Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins playoff series, a game Pittsburgh was winning (and won) 4-1, Daniel Carcillo of the Flyers took a faceoff against Maxime Talbot of the Penguins. The game was getting out of referee control at the time. There had been 26 minutes in penalties handed out in three separate incidents in less than the last twenty seconds of the game. Philadelphia was killing a penalty. This seemed like an unusual move for the Flyers. Carcillo is not a penalty killer. He averaged two seconds per game (!) on the penalty kill this season. He only took twenty faceoffs all season. Carcillo is the man who led the NHL in penalty minutes both this season and last season (his NHL career has only been two seasons long). It was a suspicious enough move that the linesman even warned Carcillo not to do anything stupid. When the puck was dropped, Carcillo hit Talbot in the head with the butt-end of his stick and/or punched him. Talbot was not hurt in the play and Carcillo was not penalized. The NHL reviewed the situation and decided to suspend Daniel Carcillo for game two and fine Flyers coach John Stevens $10,000 for setting up the situation so that his team could “send a message” for the rest of the series.
This was the correct call for the NHL. Game two of the series ran without Carcillo and the Penguins won 3-2 in overtime to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
The NHL was willing to suspend Carcillo because it was very early in the playoffs and because he is not a key player on his team. This is hoped to send the message that suspensions in the playoffs will be the same as they are in the regular season, but they are not. When the playoffs move on and each game gets more important and closer to the Stanley Cup, suspensions become rarer and rarer. A key player who is a repeat offender like Chris Pronger received minimal suspensions for worse behavior in the past at later points in the playoffs.
The Carcillo suspension is no different in game one of the playoffs than it would have been in the regular season, but what if Carcillo was a star player? What if this wasn’t game one of the first round, but rather game one of the finals? Would there have been a suspension at all? My guess is no. The NHL has a long standing double standard on these things and I hope that doesn’t expose itself this season.
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