After a thrilling opening few weeks of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the hockey world took a dark turn last night in the Washington/Pittsburgh series with the injury of Sidney Crosby. From Penguins to Capitals to general hockey fans, the hockey world is fuming right now and it's become the biggest story of the playoffs. If you have been living under a rock for the past 24 hours and somehow haven't seen it, here is the injury:
1) Sid's Concussion History
Before I talk about the hit itself, I think it's important to talk about the result of the hit first with Crosby getting his 2nd concussion of the season. It's been well-documented over the years the struggles Sidney Crosby has had with concussions, suffering at least 4 since he entered the league 12 years ago. Crosby had two concussions in 2011: hits from Dave Steckel and Victor Hedman 4 days apart in January (hard to know if he was concussed both times) causing him to miss the last 41 games of the season. Crosby returned in November of 2011, but played just 8 games before he suffered a second concussion from a David Krejci hit. He would return in March but play only 16 more games in 2012, totalling 101 missed games in two-year span.
The hockey world was crushed without Crosby, by far the best player on the planet, as he sat on the sidelines for what seemed like eternity. Since those original concussions, Crosby has returned to top form and been the elite player that everyone expects. He suffered a 3rd concussion in training camp and missed the preseason + 6 games to start the year, but was able to again return to top form leading the NHL with 44 goals this season. Here's a look at the two concussion's Sid suffered earlier in his career:
2) Ovechkin slash/slew-foot
Lost in all this mess is the fact that Alex Ovechkin played a huge role in the Sidney Crosby injury. If you look at the slow-motion replay (https://twitter.com/JeffVeillette/status) Ovechkin initially slashes Crosby on the elbow and his stick ramps up and hits Crosby a second time in the back of the head. Finally, you can see Ovie take out the back of Crosby's left skate with his own foot, causing Sid to lose his balance into the Niskanen hit.
In my opinion, Ovechkin is much more viscous with the slash/slew-foot than Niskanen was, and likely Niskanen getting 5-and a game distracted everyone from Ovechkin on the play. Had Ovechkin not taken Crosby out the Niskanen hit likely doesn't happen, and I think the Deparmtent of Player Safety missed out by only reviewing Niskanen's actions and not Ovechkin's as well.
3) Niskanen hit
The Niskanen hit is the toughest part of the play to judge, the Penguins think it was deliberate by Niskanen and the Capitals think it was just a hockey play. I'm in the middle of that spectrum: while the hit might have been the blow that concussed Sid, I don't think he intended to injure Sid on the play. Yes Niskanen does get him in the head, but it's as Crosby is falling and tough to make it seem deliberate as Pens writer Rob Rossi put it (https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/news/pittsburgh-columnist-wants-ovechkin-banned).
As someone who has suffered 3 concussions in my own hockey career, I'm not a fan of any head shots all together and thus regardless if it was intentional or not Niskanen still gets Crosby illegally. Niskanen got a 5-minute major and game misconduct for the play, but will not face any suspension for the hit, and I think the justification that it was unintentional helped that decision. Niskanen used to be Crosby's teammate so I doubt he would try to hurt him intentionally, but it was certainly an unfortunate play for both players.
1. It's a real shame that Crosby has another concussion, the fact of the matter is 4 in 12 years is far too many for the best player on the planet. The NHL needs to do a better job of protecting its stars and Crosby is the poster child for that. In my opinion, the NHL needs to take a serious look at banning head shots all together.
2. I'm okay with the Department of Player Safety deciding not to suspend Niskanen, but I think they made the mistake of not reviewing Ovechkin's role in the injury. Had Ovechkin not slashed him/taken his foot out the Niskanen hit likely doesn't happen, and in my opinion Ovie deserved a 1-2 game suspension.
3. What has really pissed me off about this entire situation is the amount of Crosby-haters out there justifying this as a clean hockey play or happy that he's hurt. Crosby has always been one of the most hated players since getting to the NHL, but he has come along ways since his "Crosby Crybaby" days and doesn't deserve the same treatment he got earlier in his career. It's one thing to defend the Niskanen hit, I completely understand that point of view from fans that he was falling and it wasn't intentional. But there are far too many people calling it a clean hit solely for the fact that they don't like Crosby and nothing else. You see people on Twitter/Facebook calling it "karma" for his slash on Methot/O'Reilly earlier in the season, even though the events are completely unrelated. Yes those were bad plays by Sid, but fans seem to imply he gets away with everything and nothing happens to him even though Sid takes more slashes, hacks and wacks then any player in the NHL. Hate a player or team all you want, but you should never wish an injury on any player in the league and most certainly shouldn't celebrate it either. The fact of the matter is this:
THE NHL IS A BETTER PLACE WHEN SIDNEY CROSBY IS ON THE ICE