New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba won’t face supplemental discipline for a hit that knocked Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby out of Game 5.
Trouba and Crosby collided in front of the Penguins net with both in pursuit of a loose puck. The Pens’ captain appeared to be caught in the head by Trouba’s elbow. Crosby went down but was able to skate to the Pens’ bench. He left the game minutes later and did not return.
No penalty was called on the play by referees Wes McCauley and Garrett Rank. The duo handed out an even eight minutes per side, but none for this hit.
While the outcome – an injury to Crosby – was unfortunate, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety felt the hit did not rise to the level of supplemental discipline.
So why didn’t this justify a suspension? Our take on the reasoning behind Player Safety’s decision not to suspend Trouba:
Trouba was attempting to make a play on the puck with his stick, reaching out in hopes of poking it away. His stick contacted Crosby’s skate, pushing the Pens’ center off balance and changing Crosby’s body position to make him more vulnerable to a potential hit. Remember, the rule for Illegal Checks to the Head specifically cites “whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.” It appears the stick work may have done so in this case. That stick-on-skate contact may also have contributed to the extension of Trouba’s left elbow, as his arm would have been pushed backwards and up after hitting Crosby’s skate.
Player Safety would also look at the nature of the contact. Again, looking at Rule 48, they would consider “whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not ‘picked’ as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.” Trouba’s angle on the play was in an attempt to make a play, and aligned with delivering a legal body check, prior to the shift in position. There was considerable body contact on the hit – likely enough to keep the head from being considered the main point of contact. The NHL’s rule clearly indicates that not all head contact is necessarily an illegal check to the head.
The league also can’t consider the outcome of the play in making the decision to suspend. While injuries are a consideration in the length of a suspension, Player Safety doesn’t look at that unless the act itself was suspendable. They also can’t weigh Trouba’s earlier plays, which included an obvious elbow to Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel in the opening minute. Perhaps the hit on Crosby could have supported an elbowing penalty – which, by definition would have to be a major if it results in injury to the head or face – but the league felt it didn’t rise to the level of disciplinary action.
“Did you see the hit?” asked Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan in his post-game press conference. “You probably have the same opinion I do.”
The officials – and Player Safety – apparently didn’t share that opinion.
The Rangers took advantage of Crosby’s absence, coming back from an 0-2 deficit to win the game 5-3. Officials for the game were referees Wes McCauley (#4) and Garrett Rank (#7); linesmen were Steve Barton (#59) and Ryan Daisy (#81).
There’s no word on Crosby’s status for Friday’s Game 6 in Pittsburgh.