The Winnipeg Jets are going to have to force a Game Six for Mark Scheifele to return to the playoffs.
Scheifele has been suspended four games for a hit that injured Montreal’s Jake Evans.
The hit came with less than a minute remaining in Winnipeg’s 5-3 Game 1 loss to the Canadiens. Evans circled the goal, tucking the puck into the vacated net for an empty net wraparound goal. As the puck cross the line, Scheifele – opting not to make a play on the puck in an attempt to prevent the goal – delivered a hard hit to Evans.
“You need to do everything you can to stop a goal from being scored; it’s part of the game,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “It was a heavy, heavy hit for sure, but it was clean.”
Evans left the ice on a stretcher.
Scheifele was given a major penalty for charging along with a game misconduct from referees Eric Furlatt and Brad Meier.
Here’s Rule 42 – Charging:
A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates, jumps into or charges an opponent in any manner.
Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a minor penalty, based on the degree of violence of the check, to a player guilty of charging an opponent.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the check, to a player guilty of charging an opponent. When a major penalty is imposed under
this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by charging.
Player Safety agreed with the on-ice officials’ assessment of the play, issuing a four-game suspension under the same rule.
“It is apparent to our department is that his intention on this play is to deliver a hard, violent check to an opponent with the outcome of both the play and the game already having been decided,” said the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in their decision video.
Scheifele led Winnipeg in scoring during the regular season, with 21 goals and 42 assists for 63 points in 56 games, along with just 12 penalty minutes. He picked up 17 in Game 1.
“It was a dirty hit, but the league’s going to take care of it. If he gets back in the series, we’re going to make life miserable for him,” said Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson. “It’s frustrating. I was following him up the ice and saw how dirty of a hit it was right away.”
So did linesman Kiel Murchison, who – along with Winnipeg’s Nik Ehlers – did his best to protect Evans during the scrum.
Montreal head coach Dominique Ducharme advised that Evans was evaluated but not transported to the hospital.
“We’re confident that the league is going to make the right decision,” Ducharme said, after the game. Less than 24 hours later, they’ve reached a verdict.
Four games for Schiefele. He may be gone for the series – and the playoffs.