David Pastrnak Suspension Latest Instance of Zero-Tolerance Approach Taken Toward Hits to Head

When it comes to predatory and dangerous plays in the NHL, Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak is so close to the bottom of the watch list he might not even crack it.

But you wouldn’t be able to tell that based upon how the league ruled on the player for his high hit on Dan Girardi in the Bruins 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night.

Pastrnak was suspended by the league two games for the hit, in which came streaking across the neutral zone on a 50-50 loose puck situation in the open ice, laying the hit on the Rangers defenseman in which he came up high, making contact with the head of Girardi. One of Pastrnak’s skates left the ice as he made contact.

That Girardi returned to the game after he was slow getting up and had to leave the game didn’t matter. That Pastrnak was a skill guy with no prior history – not even a parking ticket – on his record, didn’t matter.

What mattered was the hit was avoidable in the eyes of the league, and there was contact made to the head. The NHL will not stand for such incidents. The line has been drawn, multiple times. Pastrnak is the latest to learn the hard way.

The approach to head injuries are one of the major issues on the sports landscape (did you hear?). The best approach, of course, to head injuries is to prevent them. Real easy stuff until to realize the nature of sports like hockey, football, and soccer – just to name three sports – much of the play is conducive to head injuries and concussions.

So you have to change the culture. The league is doing that. USA Hockey is doing that. The NCAA and CHL are doing that. It’s a sport-wide effort, from the grassroots to the top of the sport.

The staggering spike in concussions reached a head about five years ago, a problem highlighted by Sidney Crosby having nearly three years of what will be a Hall of Fame career derailed by a concussion. In the summer of 2011, former NHLers Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak, and Rick Rypien died – Boogaard a drug overdose, the latter two suicide – concussions believed to be the root cause of the premature deaths of the three.

It was clear something needed to be done. The game’s fast pace, the size of the players, and oversized pads can make the game a magnet for head injuries. And of course it’s impossible to completely wipe the sport clean of concussions. They will happen. But they can be reduced. And that’s what the league has worked to do, and unlike some other leagues, has been open, honest, and transparent that it’s a problem, that it needs to be addressed, and it will be their crusade.

According to the supplementary discipline tracker Sportsnet puts out, there were 39 suspensions and 26 fines handed down from the NHL last season, costing players an aggregate 176 games and $2.74 million. That was up from the 27 suspensions, 81 games lost, and $1.388 taken out of the pockets of players a year earlier.

Already this season there have been five suspensions that have cost players 14 games, according to Spotrac.

Two years ago, Mark Spector wrote an interesting piece examining the changes made in player safety in past years. The piece put the new emphasis put on changing the game – not so much taking out the physical play, just the unnecessary ones. The game has flourished as a result.

Is David Pastrnak a dirty player? No. Was it a dirty, dangerous, predatory hit? No. Was David Pastrnak targeting the head of Dan Girardi? Not likely. Was Girardi seriously hurt? No.

What matters is the result. Contact was made to the head, the hit could’ve been avoided. That’s what matters to the league.

And when it comes to hits targeting the head, the NHL has no tolerance for it.

The Joe Louis Arena Farewell Tour Kicks Off Tonight

Nothing that really jumps out in terms of game action for Monday; the most notable likely the Red Wings beginning its 81-game home slate at the ‘Joe’ for the final time, as the club will move to a shiny new venue in downtown Detroit next fall.

Here’s the action for tonight: Colorado at Pittsburgh, 7; San Jose at N.Y. Rangers, 7; Ottawa at Detroit, 7; Boston at Winnipeg, 8.

Players to Watch

Colorado: Joe Colborne – Scored a hat trick in his first game in an Avs uniform on Saturday night, a 6-5 win over Dallas. The former first round pick, playing in fourth organization after stays in Boston, Toronto, and Calgary, looks like he’s finally finding his game. He went for a career-high 44 points last season (previous was 28), and looks to only be continuing on the upward path.

Pittsburgh: Evgeni Malkin – Has three points in two games but has struggled in the faceoff circle, winning just 14 of 42. A 43.6 percent faceoff man for his career, Malkin’s faceoff percentage has gone down every year since his career-high 48.8 percent success rate in 2013-14.

San Jose: Martin Jones – It’s been two games, but he’s out to show last season was no fluke; 2-0 record with 47 saves on 50 shots in two games.

New York: Rick Nash – He’s pointless through two games, with just five shots on goal. Just the third time in his career he’s been held to such a low output through two games. Last season was one of them; the other was in 2006.

Ottawa: Craig Anderson – Senators are 2-0, but it’s not because Anderson has stood on his head. In fact, he’s allowed seven goals on 62 shots.

Detroit: Dylan Larkin – His praises were being sung – and rightfully so – during his standout rookie season a year ago. But he’s a minus-four with just one point through two games, winning 42.9 percent of his draws.

Boston: David Backes – Injured his hand in a fight during Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Toronto. He’s expect to play.

Winnipeg: Blake Wheeler – He has four points through two games while peppering eight shots at the cage in 21:55 average of ice time. The Bruins could use a guy like him…

#HatTrickChallenge

David Pastrnak: The Bruins forward caps off National Pasta Day the right way.

Game of the Day

Ottawa at Detroit – Not the sexiest matchup but nonetheless the home opener for the Red Wings, the final one at Joe Louis Arena.

Lock to Win

Red Wings – The Wings need the win on the heels of an 0-2 start. They haven’t been terrible offensively, but the Sens are vulnerable on defense.

Links

Larry Brooks stumps for the Rangers to go get Jacob Trouba.

Jimmy Vesey has yet to register a point, but he’s already making an impact.

Major decisions loom for Senators new head coach Guy Boucher.

Sidney Crosby continues to skate.

Red Wings shuffle lines after struggling in opening two games.

 

Kicking Around the Minors: Khokhlachev, Griffith, Czarnik Continue Hot Streaks

A look at the the happenings from around minor league, college, and junior hockey over the weekend:

*The Providence Bruins returned home from a six-game road trip on Sunday, beating Rochester, 5-2. The Bruins, who play 10 of their next 12 games at the Dunkin Donuts Center, began the two-game homestand on a winning note after the 1-5 roadie.

*Alex Khokhlachev, sent down on Saturday after a one-game stint in Boston, tied a season high with four points, scoring two goals. The left-shot center is on a tear, with 7-9–16 totals in 12 games since returning from a hand injury at the beginning of December.

*P-Bruins leading scorer Seth Griffith, sent down along with Koko following a one-week stint in which he saw action in two NHL games, assisted on three goals, including both of Khokhlachev’s. He leads the Baby B’s with 30 points in 25 games.

*Both Griffith and Khokhlachev rank in the top 10 in scoring in the AHL, with Griffith (10-20–30) tied for sixth and Khokhlachev (11-18–29) tied for ninth.

*Austin Czarnik had three assists for the second time in three games. The rookie out of Miami (Ohio) has seven helpers in his last three games, despite having just one goal in his last seven. Czarnik has 18 points in his last 12 games.

*Providence had four powerplay goals in six opportunities. The Bruins have seven goals in their last 15 man-advantage situations. The powerplay unit is the best in the AHL, its success rate currently standing at 24.1 percent.

*Posting a minus-one rating, defenseman Tommy Cross was a minus for the fifth time in his last seven games. He has just one point since the start of November and four since putting up seven in his first six games of the season. The 26-year-old is on a one-year deal that pays $600,000, and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

*Matt Irwin scored 4:27 into the game to open the scoring, extending his goal-scoring streak to three games. The 28-year-old defenseman, in his fifth AHL season, is a plus-four since the start of December. Irwin, who was signed to a one-year deal by the Bruins over the summer and began the season on the NHL roster, playing two games, should be atop the pecking order if Claude Julien is in need of a blueliner.

*Colton Hargrove scored for a third consecutive contest with his tally at 9:49 of the second period. Hargrove has four goals and six points in his last three games.

*Malcolm Subban stopped 27 of 29 shots, shutting out the Amerks in the final 40 minutes, making 18 saves. He hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a game since Nov. 20, a streak of 13 games.

*In World Junior quarterfinal action on Saturday, Team USA advanced to the medal round for the first time since 2013 with a 7-0 win over the Czech Republic. Auston Matthews had a hat trick while Bruins prospects Brandon Carlo and Ryan Donato notched assists.

*It was learned over the weekend that Bruins forward David Pastrnak suffered a finger injury during the tournament, though Julien said the injury isn’t serious. Pastrnak hasn’t played since Oct. 31, missing nearly two months of action before a rehab stint in Providence preceded the World Juniors go-around. The 19-year-old has two goals and four points in 10 games this season.

*Pastrnak finishes the tournament with a goal and four points in foue games. Bruins 2015 top draft pick Jakub Zboril finished with a point. Eighteen-year-old goaltender Daniel Vladar didn’t see any action in the tournament.

*Defending champion Canada was eliminated by Finland, 6-5. The Fins will face Sweden, who beat Slovakia, 6-0, in its quarterfinal match. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had two points in the win.

*Jake DeBrusk posted a game-high five points (3-2) in Red Deer’s 10-0 win over Brandon in WHL play on Saturday night. DeBrusk has five goals and 10 points in four games since being traded to Red Deer from Swift Current. He had just a goal and three points in eight games leading up to the trade.

Kicking Around the Minors: P-Bruins Win in Springfield

The Providence Bruins snapped a four-game losing streak on Wednesday night, getting the first win of their six-game road trip on Game No. 5, a 4-3 win over Springfield.

The Bruins got three powerplay goals while Malcolm Subban made 17 of his 34 saves in the third period to get the win.

Here’s some other notes of interest from the game

*Austin Czarnik had three assists, his sixth multi-point effort of the season and fifth of this month. He now has 22 points in 25 games, which now leads all active P-Bruins, as leading scorers Seth Griffith (27 points) and Alex Khokhlachev (25) were called up to Boston this week.

Czarnik 14 points in 12 December games.

*Khokhlachev, who was promoted to Boston on Thursday morning, had a goal and an assist, landing five shots on net. The 22-year-old forward has points in 10 of 11 games since returning from a hand injury on Dec. 4.

In other words, a promotion well-earned. Ditto Griffith – called up on Tuesday – whose 27 points is good enough for seventh in the AHL. Sixteen of those points came Griffith’s previous nine games.

*Colton Hargrove scored two goals and assisted on another, erasing a four-game pointless streak. His goal at 2:20 of the second period to put Providence ahead, 2-1, was his first since Dec. 13 against Hartford, a span of five games.

*Robbie Czarnik (cousin of Austin), who was loaned to Providence from Reading of the ECHL, made his P-Bruins debut, posting a minus-one rating to go along with a pair of penalties. Czarnik had 27 points in 29 games for the Reading Royals.

*After an equipment malfunction forced Zane McIntyre to start the game, Subban returned midway through the first period and turned in one of his better performances, stopping 34 of 37 shots, 17 of which came in the the third period.

Subban’s third pro season got off to a rocky start, but has turned a corner of late. The 22-year-old netminder is 5-3-1 in December with a 2.34 GAA and .926 save percentage, averages far more representative of his career totals (2.38/.917).

Elsewhere in the minors:

*Bruins forward David Pastrnak picked up an assist in the Czech Republic’s 5-3 win over Belarus on Wednesday. The Czechs are 2-0 since Pastrnak joined the team, after being released by the Bruins for the tournament. He has a goal and an assist in two games, landing 12 shots on goal, which ties for sixth among players in the tournament.

*Sweden improved to 3-0 in pool play with a 5-0 win over Denmark. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was one of 12 Swedish skaters to record a point, assisting on Gustav Forsling’s powerplay goal at 10:22 of the third first period, which put the Swedes ahead, 2-0.

Sweden has posted two consecutive shutouts, and have outscored opponents by a 14-3 margin.

*Bruins prospects Brandon Carlo and Ryan Donato both had goals as Team USA beat Switzerland, 10-1. Carlo, a 2015 second-round pick currently playing for Tri-City of the WHL, scored on a feed from Zach Werenski at 10:13 of the first period to make the score 3-0. Donato’s goal, which was unassisted, wrapped up the scoring with 9:02 left in the second period.

Consensus 2016 first overall pick Auston Matthews led the Yanks with a game-high four points. BC forward Colin White had a goal and three points.

*Finland defeated Slovakia, 8-3, in the other WJC action on Wednesday.

*In the WHL, Bruins prospect Jesse Gabrielle scored three goals in Prince George’s 6-3 win over Vancouver. It was Gabrielle’s second hat trick in his 154-game WHL career, the first coming in Sep. 2014 as a member of the Brandon Wheat Kings. The 18-year-old has 23 goals and 40 points in 37 games, the point total already a career-high. He entered the season with 70 points in 117 games since making his WHL debut in March 2013 for Brandon.

Three Stars of the Day

  1. Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) special teams units: The Phoenix were a combined 11-of-16 in special teams situations, going 4-for-9 on the powerplay while killing all seven penalties in their 4-0 win over Gatineau.
  2. Michigan-commit Quinn Hughes scored four goals and landed 10 shots on net for the USA Under-18 team’s 7-4 win over Muskegon in USHL play.
  3. Hughes’s teammate, Scott Reedy, had a game-high five points (2-3–5) in the win. The Minnesota recruit has five goals and 15 points in 12 games for the U-18s.

Kicking Around the Minors: Weekend Roundup

The preliminary round of the World Junior Championships kicked off on Saturday, and there’s plenty of Bruins representation in the 40th installment of the tournament, with seven players whose rights are controlled by Boston heading out to Helsinki.

Here are some highlights from the first weekend of play:

*The Czech Republic, seeking its first medal since 2005, is represented by the two most recent first draft picks by the B’s, in David Pastrnak (25th overall, 2014) and Jakub Zboril (13th, 2015). Daniel Vladar, who the Bruins took at 75th overall in 2015, is backing up Vitek Vanecek in goal.

The Czechs notched their first win of tournament play on Monday, a 2-0 win over Slovakia. Pastrnak, coming off a foot injury that sidelined him for two months, scored the winning goal with 3:02 remaining in the second period, with Juraj Siska in the box for tripping. Zboril, who was ejected in the first period of the Czech’s opener against Russia, a 2-1 loss, assisted on the goal. David Kase, a Philadelphia Flyers prospect, also was awarded an assist.

*Bruins prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored a goal as Sweden hung a snowman on Switzerland, an 8-3 win, on Saturday. Karlsson, a 2015 second-round pick in his freshman season at BU, scored with 12:50 left in the second period to put the Swedes ahead, 6-2.

The stars of the win were brothers Alex and William Nylander, sons of former Bruin Michael Nylander. Alex, the younger of the duo, assisted on four goals while William opened the scoring 1:21 into the game. William was drafted eighth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft by Toronto. He has an AHL-leading 34 points (14-20) in 27 games for the Toronto Marlies. Alex is projected to be selected in the top half of the first round of the 2016 draft. His 49 points in 33 games leads the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL.

*Team USA, who hasn’t medaled since winning Gold in 2013, opened the tournament with a 4-2 win over defending champion Canada.

With the Yanks down, 1-0, BC freshman and Hanover, Mass. native Colin White scored the equalizer with 3:27 remaining in the second, the assists coming from former BC recruit Sonny Milano and Arizona Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak. Team USA went on to score three third-period goals to seal the win.

Team USA is represented by B’s prospects Brandon Carlo, Anders Bjork, and Ryan Donato. Also on the team is Chad Krys (BU ’98 commit), Brandon Fortunato (BU), Charlie McAvoy (BU), White (BC), and Ryan Hitchcock (Yale).

****

The Providence Bruins emerged from the Christmas break with a pair of losses over the weekend, falling to Albany (NJ), 4-1, on Saturday before losing to Bridgeport (NYI), 4-3 on Sunday.

*Austin Czarnik scored the Bruins lone goal on Saturday, his ninth of the season. The 23-year-old now has 19 points in 24 games, ranking third on the team. Of the 18 players to appear in 20-plus games for the P-Bruins in 2015-16, he’s the lone plus player (plus-3).

*Seth Griffith factored in all three Providence goals on Sunday, with a goal and two assists. He now has a team-leading 27 points in 24 games. Sixteen of those points have come in the last nine games.

Griffith, who played 30 games for the varsity in 2014-15, could be setting himself up for a promotion. Stay tuned.

*Zack Phillips had his first multi-point game of the season, with a goal and assist. He had five last season, his first in Providence.

*Zane McIntyre got his first start in two weeks on Sunday. He turned aside 24 of the 28 shots the Sound Tigers sent his way, suffering his first loss since Nov. 22. The rookie out of North Dakota is 5-5-3 on the season with a .886 save percentage and 2.94 GAA.

*Former BU netminder Matt O’Connor, who out-dueled McIntyre in the 2015 NCAA semifinal at the TD Garden, got the winning decision for Binghamton (OTT) on Saturday night, a 4-2 win over Hartford (NYR), making 24 saves. The 23-year-old is just 3-9-2 this season, stopping pucks at a .881 rate, but has wins in three of his last four starts, allowing seven goals and posting a .936 save percentage.

*Jake DeBrusk, who the Bruins took with the 14th overall pick, made his debut with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL) on Sunday night, after being traded to Red Deer from Swift Current. DeBrusk scored a goal and assisted on another in the Rebels’ 5-4 win over Edmonton, though he was also on the ice for two of the Oil Kings’ four goals. The 19-year-old forward has 10 goals and 28 points in a combined 25 games between Swift Current and Red Deer.