Day one of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs certainly got off to a tumultuous start — at least, in the Montreal – Ottawa series.
The game got off to a rough start for Montreal when defenseman Andrei Markov accidentally scored on Carey Price to put the Senators up 1-0 — but although they fought their way back to a win, it didn’t come without a cost.
Blue line star P.K. Subban was ejected from the game about halfway through the second period, when he slashed the hands of rookie Mark Stone on a power play for Ottawa.
The controversy, of course, came about because the Canadiens didn’t believe that Stone was truly injured.
Although the forward fell to the ice after getting hacked in the mitts by Subban’s stick, Stone — who went on a scoring tear to end his first pro hockey campaign with twenty-six goals in eighty games, and was originally led to the dressing room following the hit — returned to the game before the second period was over. He continued to play, leading to questions of whether he’d initially been truly injured.
Per the league Department of Player Safety, a five minute major — plus a game misconduct — must be assessed only if a player is injured on a slashing call. Since Stone returned to the game, the question was raised whether Subban was ejected from the game as a consequence of Stone’s embellishment — one of the more delightfully ironic things to happen in the playoffs thus far, since Subban is the only player in the 2014-2015 regular season campaign to get fined twice for embellishment.
For the Senators, though, the controversy lay in whether Subban would be awarded supplemental discipline for the hit.
The NHL DoPS discipline chief, Stephane Quintal, announced on Thursday morning that no additional discipline was warranted for the hit. The Senators scored on the five minute major, Stone returned to the game seemingly unharmed, and the game ejection seemed like sufficient discipline for the hit — which, while dirty, didn’t seem like it was harmful enough to warrant further action. Going off league precedent, it wasn’t likely Subban would see much more for the hit than what he already had.
The post-season last spring taught the NHL, though, that particularly chippy players occasionally lose their cool in particularly chippy games — and after the league saw two separate individuals fined within the first week of playoff action for, ah, groin-related actions, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to see the league slap a fine on Subban for what may be one of the more blatantly obvious slashes seen around the league this year. While it would seem that he didn’t hurt Stone, Subban still delivered a hit that bore no resemblance to a legal hockey play. Assuming the NHL is trying to tamper down on harmful plays before they happen, a fine wouldn’t have been the most shocking thing handed out for the slash.
Ultimately, though, Montreal took game one and Mark Stone got a chance to let Mika Zibanejad shine a bit instead. On to game two.