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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Hradek: Consistency must be part of suspension talk

Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 12:21 PM / NHL.Countdown

By EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst


Before we take a spin on the Express, a quick thought about suspensions.

Most owners, executives, coaches, players and fans would like to see longer suspensions for dangerous and reckless plays that fall outside of the rules ... as long as it's not someone on their team.

In the game between Chicago and Phoenix on Tuesday night, for example, the Hawks were rightfully outraged about Raffi Torres' hit on Marian Hossa, who was carried off the ice on a stretcher as a result of the blow. (In my opinion, Torres deserves a long stay in the press box.)

About a month ago, however, when Chicago D Duncan Keith delivered an elbow to the head of star Vancouver winger Daniel Sedin, there was little sense of moral indignation by the Blackhawks over the ugly hit. Instead, the Hawks circled the wagons around their star defenseman.

Daniel Sedin suffered a concussion due to an elbow to the head by Chicago's Duncan Keith. (Photo: Bill Smith/NHLI)

In the end, Keith received a five-game ban, while Sedin has yet to return to action -- although he might dress for Wednesday night's must-win Game 4 in Los Angeles.

This kind of hypocritical behavior happens in each of the League's 30 cities. You know, when it happens to me, it's the worst thing ever; but when my guy does it, it really isn't so bad. The behind-the-scene lobbying by owners and execs in defense of dangerous and reckless acts by members of their particular team has made it extremely difficult for any League disciplinarian to truly put down the hammer.

Until each of the individual franchises can look past team colors, it will continue to be difficult to administer the kind of powerful suspensions that could help change behavior for the better.

And, if you're wondering if strong suspensions and discipline can change player behavior, look no further than Penquins winger Matt Cooke. He's figured out something different since being slapped with what amounted to a 17-game ban this past spring for elbowing Ryan McDonagh of the Rangers. Cooke set out the final 10 games of the regular season, as well as the Penguins first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In that case, Pens' management fully supported the decision. By putting the best interests of the game in front of its own, the club ended up doing itself a big favor. Cooke returned this season to be a productive member of the team; to date, staying out of further trouble.

Now, the Express offers a few quick playoff notes.

Reversal of fortune: During the regular season, New Jersey's penalty kill was dynamic; establishing a single-season league mark with an 89.58 success rate. And, it scored an NHL-high 15 shorthanded goals.

In the first three games of its first-round series against Florida, New Jersey's penalty kill has turned putrid, surrendering six power-play goals on 10 chances. If Peter Deboer's club can't get that unit back on track, they could be for a surprisingly short spring.

Road warriors: In the first round of these Stanley Cup Playoffs, there's apparently no place like the road.

Through the first 25 postseason games, the visiting teams have won 17 times. That's includes a perfect 3-0 run Tuesday night by the Panthers, Predators and Coyotes.

Is there any explaining the home-ice woes? Most coaches and players are pretty stumped, other than to say there can be less pressure away from home.

Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 1-3-0
GAA: 2.78 | SVP: 0.879
The Red Wings wish they had an answer for this playoff trend. After all, the club established a single-season record for consecutive home victories (24), only to drop both games to the Predators at The Joe, falling behind, 3-1, in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

There is some good news for Mike Babcock's troops. Their next game is on the road.

Rise in penalties: The penalty box is getting a lot more use in the early going of this playoff season when compared to last year.

Through the first 22 playoff games of 2012, referees have whistled a total of 804 minutes in penalties. That's approximately 36.5 penalty minutes per game.

By contrast, in the same numbers of games in the 2011 playoffs, there were just 564 PIMs, or about 25.6 minutes per contest.

After the bevy of suspensions handed out during the past 72 hours, it'll be interesting to see if the numbers start to come down.

Extra work: The Coyotes and Hawks have needed overtime in each of the first three games of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

It marked just the fifth time in League history the first three games of a playoff series went to OT. The clubs will need to battle to extra time in each of the next two games to tie this unusual record.

In 1951, in the Cup Final, Toronto and Montreal went to overtime in each of their five games. The Leafs won the series (4-1) on Bill Barilko's OT tally in Game 5. Sadly, Barilko died in plane crash just a few short months later.

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory