Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov has been suspended one game for an “intentional stick swing” to the face of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kyle Burroughs.
Kuznetsov’s stickwork came with 3:16 remaining in the second period of Monday’s game in D.C. He was assessed a minor penalty for high-sticking on the play by referees Corey Syvret and Marc Joannette.
Rule 60 covers high-sticking:
Any contact made by a stick on an opponent above the shoulders is prohibited and a minor penalty shall be imposed.
When a player carries or holds any part of his stick above the shoulders and makes contact with his opponent’s neck, face or head so that injury results, in the manner of drawing blood or otherwise, the Referee shall assess a double-minor penalty.
When, in the opinion of the Referee, a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent while carrying or holding any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent, the Referee shall assess a match penalty to the offending player.
The play was not eligible for review by the on-ice officials. Referees do have the option to review major penalties, match penalties, and double-majors for high-sticking with the option of confirming, reducing, or eliminating the penalty. As the call on the ice was a minor penalty, the refs aren’t able to take a second look.
Here’s the explanation from Player Safety.
“Kuznetsov takes the park to the net to try to create a scoring chance with Burroughs defending at the far goal post. The two collider as Kuznetsov cuts across the goal mouth, with Burroughs losing his stick and Kuznetsov falling to the ice. As Kuznetsov gets back to his feet, he pulls back his stick and swings it purposefully at Burroughs, making contact with his face. This is high sticking.”
“It is important to note that this is not a careless use of the stick. Rather, this is an intentional stick swing towards an opponent that makes high contact. While we recognize Kuznetsov’s assertion that he did not intend to hit Kuznetsov so high, players are accountable for their stick at all times. What causes this play to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is the purposeful nature of the swing and the location where it lands on the opponent.”
Comparable previous suspensions levied by Player Safety would include one game to Arizona’s Nick Ritchie for a slash on Anaheim’s Kevin Shattenkirk, one game to Carolina’s Nino Niederreiter for slashing a player on the Capitals bench, or even the one-gamer to then-Ranger Pavel Buchnevich.
We felt Kuznetsov’s swing – also intentional and forceful – still had greater potential for injury than Ritchie or Niederreiter, and would’ve gone with two games, like the league did with Vancouver’s Tanner Poolman, whose whack was admittedly harder than Kuznetsov’s.
In any case, we’d love to see Player Safety escalate punishment for ‘non-hockey plays’ such as these where there is, as they describe, “intentional” stickwork with the “purposeful nature of the swing”. There’s no play on the puck. There’s no hockey play here. There’s no reason not to come down harder on these types of plays.
The Capitals went on to win the game 6-4. Referees were Corey Syvret (#23) and Marc Joannette (#25); linesmen were Derek Nansen (#70) and Ryan Galloway (#82).
This is the second disciplinary action against Kuznetsov for high sticking in the past six months. He was fined $5,000 for high sticking Florida’s Noel Acciari during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was also previously suspended three games for inappropriate conduct in 2019 by NHL Hockey Operations, shortly after receiving a four-year ban from playing hockey in Russia after a positive cocaine test.
Kuznetsov forfeits $42,162.16 in salary as a result of the suspension.