Brendan Shanahan has a tough job. There's little question about it. There's no sarcasm intended there; it's a job most certainly wouldn't want but plenty say they can handle. The NHL's Department of Player Safety is existing in some semblance of a vacuum during the postseason, namely with the hits from this past weekend's Eastern Conference semifinal games delivered by Alexander Ovechkin of the Capitals and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux.
Giroux was handed a one-game suspension for his hit on New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus during Sunday's Game 4 loss to the Devils. Giroux was visibly frustrated earlier in the play after contact by the Devils' Mark Fayne, complaining to officials while heading back up the ice prior to hitting Zubrus in the chin well after Zubrus had released the puck. Giroux did not leave his feet (a clear mitigating factor according to NBC Sports' Pierre McGuire) but did make lateral contact with Zubrus' head, which was identified as the principal point of contact by Shanahan in the suspension video, also calling the hit "reckless." Earlier in the season, these are the specific types of hits the NHL has said they want to eliminate from the game. The fact that Giroux seemed to hit Zubrus out of frustration was one of the determining factors in suspending Giroux for Game 5, a game that could be the last of Philadelphia's season.
Conversely, Alexander Ovechkin has evaded any type of supplementary discipline for his hit on the Rangers' Dan Girardi during the Caps' Game 4 win over the Rangers from Saturday afternoon. Ovechkin clearly leaves his feet and makes contact with the head as the principal point of contact after Girardi fires a shot from the slot on Washington netminder Braden Holtby. Ovechkin's hit is similar to the one delivered by Montreal's Max Pacioretty to PIttsburgh's Kris Letang back in December, for which Pacioretty was suspended for three games. How Ovechkin's hit is not considered in the same vein as Giroux's is mind-boggling. Ovi's seemed even worse that Giroux's as Girardi's head was seemingly less protected than Zubrus'. If the hit that Giroux delivered merited a one-game suspension, than Ovechkin's must be at least two for leaving his feet.
How is it that Ovechkin escaped suspension, but Giroux had a suspension levied for one game? The NHL found it easy to suspend Phoenix's Rostislav Klesla and Raffi Torres for questionable (and dirty) hits, but Nashville's Shea Weber slams Henrik Zetterberg's face into the glass at the end of Game 1 of their series and he gets a fine? Ottawa's Matt Carkner avoids suspension for his shot on Brian Boyle but the Rangers see Carl Hagelin nixed a game for his run at the Sens' Daniel Alfredsson? The fact that the NHL bases suspensions on whether the player is injured on the play seems rather after-the-fact. An illegal hit is still an illegal hit even in the player walks away from it. If Donald Brashear had popped back up after being chopped in the head by Marty McSorely, does that change McSoreley's actions?
The system of discipline for the stars has been separate from other players all season, sort of a see-no-evil approach when players like Ovechkin launch themselves at the opposition, which makes the Giroux suspension surprising. Any shred of consistency from the NHL, both in terms of on-ice officiating and supplementary discipline, would be appreciated.