Last night, Monday May 1st, in the Capitals/Penguins game, Sidney Crosby suffered what is now his fourth confirmed concussion in his professional career. This is a problem but it was the result of a hockey injury and not a play meant to injure Crosby. Crosby was driving to the net in the first period while Washington’s Alex Ovechkin was backchecking against him. Ovechkin slashed at Crosby’s left shoulder and his stick rode up Crosby’s shoulder, making contact with his helmet. This should have been a penalty but just a two minute minor for slashing or a high stick. It’s also a play that I’ve seen Crosby make dozens of time while backchecking. The result of Ovechkin hitting Crosby was Crosby losing his balance, causing him to start falling towards Capitals’ defenseman Matt Niskanen. Niskanen began the process of stick-checking Crosby before he began falling, which cause Crosby’s head to become the principle point of contact with Niskanen’s stick which resulted in Crosby’s neck bending at an awkward angle, giving him what we now know was a concussion. Crosby was helped off the ice and didn’t return to the game while Niskanen was given a five minute major for high-sticking and a ten minute game misconduct.
Now, here is when I begin making enemies with fellow Penguins’ fans. I believe that Niskanen should have been penalized on the play, but am not certain I am comfortable with him receiving the misconduct. The injury was the result of a hockey play and could have happened to anyone. Had Crosby not been falling Niskanen would have simply cross-checked Crosby in the ribs or shoulder and it would have been a two minute minor at most. Instead, because contact was made with his head, the conversation had to be changed. We learned today that Niskanen was not going to face further discipline and I think that’s the correct move.
It’s a shame that Crosby is facing another concussion battle and hopefully he takes all the he needs to get completely healthy, even if that means missing the remainder of the playoffs. Yet, that’s the reality of the situation when Crosby is involved. He has a history of concussions and for some reason he seems to be more prone to suffer from them than other players. However, the league cannot punish people for plays made against Crosby just because he gets injured when others don’t. The NHL made the right call despite often not doing so.