Flyers

Niskanen receives suspension for crosschecking Gallagher

Flyers

The Flyers will not have Matt Niskanen for Game 6 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the Canadiens.

Considering the circumstances and factors, the length of his absence could have been worse for the Flyers.

On Thursday night, Niskanen was suspended one game by the NHL Department of Player Safety for crosschecking Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher during the third period of the Flyers' 5-3 loss Wednesday in Game 5.

Here were the major points in the league's review of the play following its hearing with Niskanen:

Niskanen knocks the puck down and moves to retrieve it. Gallagher approaches Niskanen and knocks him off the puck with a crosscheck. As Gallagher battles for the puck, Niskanen gets to his feet and approaches Gallagher. He takes his stick, pulls it back and delivers a sharp, forceful blow that lands on Gallagher's face, causing an injury. This is crosschecking.

It is important to note that while we accept Niskanen's argument that he was not attempting to strike Gallagher in the head, Niskanen is intentionally attempting to deliver a crosscheck to the upper body of Gallagher to knock him to the ice.

We also agree with the Flyers' assertion that players regularly use their sticks to defend areas of the ice, establish body position or move their opponents off the puck, and that the majority of those plays can be sufficiently penalized by the on-ice officials. Finally, it's also important to note that we believe the sudden and significant movement by Gallagher contributes to the fact that this blow lands on his head rather than somewhere else on his body.

However, what causes this play to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is the force of the blow and the fact that the original intent of the play was to deliver a forceful stick foul to the upper body of an opponent. Players are responsible for their stick at all times, and when a player attempts to intentionally use his stick to deliver a blow to an opponent, he cannot necessarily be excused from responsibility when the blow recklessly lands in an unintended area.

NHL Department of Player Safety
 

The Canadiens announced Thursday night that Gallagher suffered a broken jaw and will miss the remainder of the series.

The Flyers lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 set for Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBC).

The 33-year-old Niskanen has been a critical piece to the Flyers' turnaround in 2019-20. The steady, all-situation blueliner with a Stanley Cup ring makes up the Flyers' first defensive pair alongside Ivan Provorov.

Losing Niskanen for a game is a considerable loss, one that shouldn't be underestimated even if Niskanen hasn't played his best in the series. However, if eighth-seeded Montreal wants to upset the top-seeded Flyers, it must now do so without Gallagher over the final two games. The 28-year-old winger is a two-time 30-plus goal scorer and was tied for the regular-season team lead in markers with 22.

 

Expect Shayne Gostisbehere to enter the lineup in Niskanen's absence. Gostisbehere has two assists over three games in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

It's uncertain which blueliner will join Provorov on the team's top pair.

Here's how the Flyers looked on defense in Games 3-5:

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen

Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers

Robert Hagg-Justin Braun