During Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was assessed a two-minute penalty for an illegal hit to the head of Leafs forward Mitchell Marner. As Hardev pointed out in the recap, it just wasn’t a good play at all. As you can see below, Sergachev cuts in front of Marner (who was being hooked by Victor Hedman at the same time) and catches him in the head with his shoulder.
Sergachev catches Marner in the head— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 4, 2021
Bad hit pic.twitter.com/lfcTUBVHts
The refs saw it and called it as they should. On Friday, the NHL Department of Player Safety had a hearing with Sergachev and it was determined that he will face supplemental discipline. The young blueliner has been suspended for the next two games (and take a $48,000 hit to the bank account).
Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev has been suspended for two games for an Illegal Check to the Head on Toronto’s Mitchell Marner. https://t.co/iwkm4hVfQW— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) November 5, 2021
While Sergachev doesn’t have a relevant history (just one fine for a cross-check to Buffalo’s Johann Larsson in 2019) the severity, and the fact that it was avoidable warranted the two-game suspension. As the video pointed out, Marner doesn’t move his head in any way to initiate the head as a principle point of contact. He doesn’t jerk it up or down at the last minute despite being slightly off-balance. Sergachev could have stayed low or targeted the shoulder/chest area of Marner. Chances are that’s what he was attempting to do and just misjudged the speed.
Even if there is no intent to hit the head, these are the types of plays that have to be eliminated from the game. Sergachev has to do a better job in this situation to avoid the head. He had time and space to change the angle of his hit. An argument could be made that the hit itself was unnecessary as Marner had already lost control of the puck due to the hook from Hedman.
That leaves the Lightning without one of the top defenseman for games against Ottawa on Saturday and the unbeaten Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. With a blueline that is already operating at a bare-bones minimum they might be forced to recall, and start, Fredrik Claesson from Syracuse. Another option would be the “pairing” of Andrej Sustr and Cal Foote. The two played in the same game (although not together) last Monday against Washington when Jan Rutta was out of the line-up. Should they both draw in, it would be likely that that the coaching staff would rotate through the pairings, mixing and matching things so that they aren’t on the ice at the same time for very long.
They should be able to make it work against the Senators, but Carolina is one of the top teams in the league and not having Sergachev in the line-up will be a big loss.