The NHL went light on Evgeni Malkin.
The Department of Player Safety suspended Malkin just one game Tuesday afternoon after taking a baseball-like swing at Flyers forward Michael Raffl in the late stages of Monday’s 4-1 Pittsburgh win.
Malkin has built up a reputation and history of cheap shots and retaliatory penalties throughout his time in the league, including an elbow to the head of Washington’s T.J. Oshie back in November, but had never received supplemental discipline until Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters after Monday's game, Malkin didn’t believe his act of aggression was even suspension-worthy.
“I didn’t hit him in the face,” Malkin said. “If I had touched him in the face, for sure, I would get suspended. It’s a high stick, but it’s not like I broke his face. I think I won’t get suspended.”
The two players were battling in front of the benches when Raffl appeared to take a few jabs to the back of Malkin’s head. While Raffl probably should have received a two-minute minor for roughing, the referees appropriately slapped Malkin with a five-minute major and match penalty.
Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin has been suspended for one game for High-sticking Philadelphia’s Michael Raffl. https://t.co/ECTGHHVwIC— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) February 12, 2019
While replays make it appear as if Malkin swung and missed just barely, he could have done serious damage to Raffl or another Flyer had his stick struck a player’s helmet, mouth or even eye socket.
Following Malkin’s phone hearing Tuesday afternoon, George Parros, head of the Department of Player Safety, clearly determined that intent carried very little weight in his ruling and that only serious injury to Raffl would have warranted a longer suspension.
In November 2017, Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas took a guillotine-like whack to the back of the head of Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault, resulting in a 10-game suspension for Gudas. Perreault returned to game action just two days later, but the league sent a direct message to Gudas that reprehensible acts of violence would no longer be tolerated.
That message was not passed along to Malkin, who will sit out Pittsburgh’s game against Edmonton on Wednesday.
Malkin’s transgressions add another interesting subplot for when the Penguins return to Philadelphia for the Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field on Feb. 23.
Rest assured, Sidney Crosby won’t be Philadelphia’s only public enemy.
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