ECQF Game 4 preview: Pittsburgh Penguins (4) at Tampa Bay Lightning (5)


WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Pensburgh, The Pensblog, Let's Go Pens

The story yesterday was the fact Chris Kunitz and Steve Downie were both suspended by the National Hockey League for one game. Both were the subjects of questionable hits during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.

I don't have a problem with the suspensions.

I do have a problem with Club Two-Minute's inconsistency of rule enforcement here.

My thoughts on the disciplinary actions (with videos), as well as more focus on today's game, below the jump.

Chris Kunitz made a deliberate move with his elbow toward Simon Gagne's head while Gagne's focus was receiving the puck. Blindside hit, akin to something you would see from Matt Cooke:

Kunitz explained himself yesterday, but the video highlights just seem to contradict what he's asserting:

"I was coming though the middle and getting ready to finish a check like I usually do and the puck was reaching on him," Kunitz said. "I had my arms in a bad spot up in the air anyways, and he (Gagne) kind of spun and turned back towards me. I went to brush him in the shoulder and I got him in the head. Not very responsible on my side. I got got definitely be careful. I'm glad he is okay and finished the game."

And then there's the Downie incident, from much earlier in the game. Steve Downie nails Ben Lovejoy behind the Penguins net (before the puck goes back the other way and results in Pittsburgh's opening goal of the game):

Colin Campbell's assertion, in levying the suspension toward Downie, was that Steve deliberately left his feet with this check on Lovejoy.  I'm not going to argue that, I'm not going to try to brush off disciplinary action.  But the Chief-of-Chiefs of Club Two-Minutes asserts Downie left his feet to deliver that hit, justifying the disciplinary action.

How many times did we see that during the regular NHL season?  How many times were there no calls? No post-game discipline form the powers-that-be and the good old Wheel of Justice?

Anyone recall Chris Neil concussing Victor Hedman during the 2009-10 season? Same play, same hit. Neil wasn't given any type of discipline for what happened. This is just the first example that came to mind. These types of hits were ongoing all season in 2010-11, as they have been for a while.

The microscope is on Campbell and his band of puppets (hello, Stephen Walkom).  A new set of rules are enforced -- it's enforcement for enforcement's sake.  Selective penalties, selective enforcement, and continued zero consistency.

Downie can be suspended.  I have no issue with that.  But if you are going to enforce rules that way -- do it from the first pre-seaosn game in September until the final game of the Stanley Cup. Everyone's tired of the rules being adjusted for the sake of the playoffs -- non calls, hyper-active calls, whatever.

End rant.  Lets talk about tonight.

The Bolts made a pair of transactions yesterday which may or may not earn the ire of the Norfolk Admirals faithful (let me know your persective ont his, please, Ads fans). Admirals leading scorer Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola were both called up in light of the Steve Downie suspension and Ryan Malone's questionable status going forward.

The Admirals, of course, are playing their own playoff series right now against the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.  The Ads dropped their game last night.  They still lead the series 2 games to 1.

But being without Jones and Ritola does have to hurt.

While Ryan Malone not participating in this morning's team skate at the Forum, the news Steven Stamkos was missing from the team skate was a bit unexpected. While there may be nothing to it, that's a story worth keeping an eye on for the remainder of the day.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

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