The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has been the center of attention for the last few months, and instead of being criticized for dealing out light punishments, it's now getting some flak for the opposite.
During the dying moments of Game 1 against the Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele rushed the full length of the ice to send Montreal winger Jake Evans flying with an unnecessary hit. Because of this act of late-game carelessness, Scheifele was suspended four games on Thursday, which will force him to miss the majority of his club's second-round series.
In his first media availability since the suspension, Scheifele had some choice words for the decision.
"It was pretty excessive. I wasn't expecting that. I was pretty shocked. That's their decision," the 28-year-old said, via CBC’s Devin Heroux.
Despite speaking out about the subjectively unjust ruling, Scheifele will not appeal the suspension and will serve his four-game sentence. The Jets’ top center still double-downed and criticized the portrayal of his check.
"I didn't think it was a bad hit because I was trying to negate a goal. I was trying to stay nice and compact. I'm trying to negate a goal and give our team a chance to win," Scheifele said.
Because of a Kyle Connor empty-net one-timer, Winnipeg cut the lead to just a single goal with 1:42 still remaining in the game, but it was Evans that had the clear-cut chance to kill all hope with less than a minute on the clock. To score a 6-on-5 goal is a rarity, but to score two? That’s hardly seen no matter the team’s offensive abilities.
A debate that will go back and forth through the summer and likely into into next season unfortunately crept its way through Angry Hockey Twitter and eventually into extremely personal territory.
"I'm a big boy. I signed up for this. I can handle this. But to put my parents, brother and sister, my loved ones through this, is unacceptable," Scheifele said, clearly emotional.
"I got held accountable. But there's no right to go after my parents and my loved ones. … It hurt a lot."
Away from the cesspool of fans that went that route, the Jets will be clearly hurting on the ice without one of their best forwards. Montreal scraped by in its Game 1 win, but they should be the more dominant favourite as they head into Game 2 with confidence.
Through five games this postseason, Scheifele has tallied two goals and three assists after posting 63 points in the regular season.
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