A large portion of Montreal Canadiens fans have been fed up with the amount of playing time Douglas Murray received from Michel Therrien this season, and think the big blue liner should sit in favor of Jarred Tinordi much more often.
These fans are about to get their wish, but not because Therrien has had a change of heart. Murray will be suspended for the remaining five games of the regular season. Well, in my opinion at least.
Murray will have a phone hearing with the league tomorrow at 11:00 A.M. Eastern Time for his elbow to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mike Kostka late in the third period of last night’s game. The fact it is a phone hearing means the maximum banishment that Murray can receive is five games. If he were going to be suspended six games or longer then he would be subject to an in person hearing and not a phone call.
Kostka laid motionless on the ice for nearly a minute after the hit, but eventually left the under his own power, and was able to skate to the bench on his own. Still, the hit was quite devastating.
As you can see, Kostka stickhandles to his backhand and drops the puck off for a teammate as he crosses the Canadiens blue line. Murray steps up on him but can not line him up squarely, and sort of shrugs his shoulders and brings his elbow up away form his body to make contact with Kostka.
I don’t think the intent was viscous, but Murray ended up catching Kostka directly in the chin and jaw with what appears to be his shoulder as Kostka tries to sneak by him. Murray’s elbow comes up as well, but after watching the video countless times, I still don’t see his elbow making contact with Kostka’s face.
However, it is quite clear that Murray targeted the head of Kostka, and followed through on a hit that the NHL is desperately trying to get out of the game. Kostka was diagnosed with a concussion this morning, meaning the illegal hit resulted in an injury.
There have been a few similar incidences of head contact hits this season. Tyler Myers sat three games early in the season for a very similar hit to the head of New Jersey Devil Dainius Zubrus. Zubrus came in over the line and was met by Myers, who could have tried to avoid the head, but clearly targeted Zubrus face with his shoulder, and delivered a solid check.
This resulted in a three game ban for Myers, but there are two main factors that have me believing Murray will sit more than three games. First, Myers hit did not result in an injury, as mentioned in the suspension video, and second, Myers is a top pairing defenseman.
It is one of the world’s worst kept secrets that the better a player is, the shorter his suspension is going to be when the NHL comes up with a punishment.
Derek Engelland, a third pairing defender for the Pittsburgh Penguins was banned for five games when he caught Justin Abdelkader in the chin with a big hit. The his itself is not that similar to Murray’s except for the fact it was shoulder to jaw. Engelland did not necessarily target Abdelkader’s chin, but happened to connect with it when Justin leaned forward to play the puck.
Engelland had prior suspensions which comes into play, but threw a much less viscous check as well. Murray may not have a record of hits like this, but he clearly targeted the jaw of Kostka, and will suffer from the third pairing defenseman bias when the NHL comes to a conclusion tomorrow on the length of his ban.
Phone hearings can result in a maximum of a five game suspension, and in my opinion, Murray will be sitting for five.
Bad news for Murray, but many Canadiens fans will be happy to know that Tinordi will be guaranteed to play the last five games before the postseason begins.
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