Matt Carkner was put in the Ottawa Senators’ lineup for game 2 for one reason and one reason only: to send a message to the New York Rangers that they weren’t going to be manhandled the way they were in their 4-2 game one loss.
Carkner did his job effectively, when at 2:15 in the first period he jumped an unsuspecting Brian Boyle, who did not fight back, as retribution for Boyle’s game one rabbit-punching of Erik Karlsson in game one. It happened right in front of the referee, who puts his arm up, blows the whistle and just stands there rather than attempt to stop Carkner from using a prone Boyle as a human punching bag.
Seeing his teammate in trouble, Brandon Dubinsky (and everyone else for that matter) got involved and the referees, who seemingly let it get out of control, not only gave Dubinsky 2 minutes for roughing but tossed him out of the game for being the 3rd man in on the altercation. The 3rd man in rule states that “a game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress except when a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation. This penalty is in addition to any other penalties incurred in the same incident.” Much to the chagrin of the Gatorade cooler at the Rangers’ tunnel, the referees used their discretion to assess that penalty and Dubinsky was lost for the game.
Carkner, on the other hand, received 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting and a game misconduct as well. Carkner did his job and was done for the night. There’s no way of knowing if the outcome of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss would have been any different with Dubinsky available, but it certainly did not help the Rangers’ cause.
On Sunday, Carkner, a repeat offender who has a history of such behavior, received a one-game suspension for his deliberate antics. Meanwhile, Rangers’ rookie Carl Hagelin received a 3-game suspension for his careless elbow to the head of Daniel Alfredsson. Seemingly the difference? While Carkner’s repeated blows to the head did not cause injury to Boyle, Hagelin’s elbow to the head did, at least in that game as Alfredsson did not return to play in game two. Alfredsson, however, has not yet been ruled out of Monday’s game.
Sunday evening, the Rangers issued this brief statement on the Hagelin suspension:
The New York Rangers accept the NHL’s three-game suspension of Carl Hagelin and will not pursue an appeal.
However, we are thoroughly perplexed in the ruling’s inconsistency with other supplementary discipline decisions that have been made throughout this season and during the playoffs.
We will have no further comment on this decision.
Perplexed? Yeah, join the party.
The message these suspensions send? That an action that may or may not cause a player to miss time is a far greater offense than a premeditated attack on a player that didn’t cause an injury. What next? Why not up the ante? If the Senators sent out a sacrificial lamb – a player that losing for a game or two has no real impact – do the Rangers send theirs out on Monday in John Scott and send him after Chris Phillips for his elbow on Ryan Callahan? Then who does Zenon Konopka, who promised “blood and stitches” in the series, target next? I am certainly not advocating it, but when the referees fail to step in and properly control the situation (not just in the Rangers-Senators series) and the NHL itself fails to mete out discipline with some semblance of logic and reason (feel free to lump in Shea Weber slamming Henrik Zetterberg’s head, WWE-style, that only led to a fine), it lends itself to some of the vigilante justice that we’ve seen in the first week of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
There were expectations (at least I had them), that when Brendan Shanahan became the discipline czar, he was going to be a drastic improvement over his predecessor, Colin Campbell. Unfortunately, even with the video explanations, NHL discipline has remained a confusing, arbitrary justice system that leaves everyone scratching their heads.
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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927