In the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Game 3 win at the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, defenseman Kris Letang was checked in the corner by Dominic Moore. As he tried to escape, he raised his stick and slashed Viktor Stalberg of the Rangers across the neck.
It was at 7:12 of the third period. Letang wasn’t penalized.
This would seem … what’s the word … unsafe? You know, the kind of thing the NHL Department of Player Safety might penalize retroactively for being so unsafe.
And yet Letang will not have a hearing with the NHL for the slash, according to Renaud Lavoie.
How is this possible? Here's what we've gathered from NHL sources, regarding Player Safety's decision on Letang:
1. Letang is off-balance due to the hit. Check his skates – they’re both off the ice as his stick is raised to Stalberg’s head.
2. Now check the left arm of Letang on the slow-motion replay. As he absorbs the Moore hit, his left arm slams against the glass, and as it does his stick – which he’s carrying dangerously high already – snaps into the neck of Stalberg. The NHL believes his left glove or the end of his stick catches a stanchion on the glass. The hit by Moore causes him to twist and makes the stick go forward into Stalberg's neck.
3. Therefore, the NHL sees this as an accident and not intentional.
So from a certain point of view, there’s a series of circumstances on the Moore hit that only make it appear that Letang lost his mind and tried to turn Stalberg into Ned Stark. (Oh, yeah, spoilers.)
While we don’t believe Kris Letang momentarily decided to play Tee-Ball with Stalberg’s head, there’s no question the position of his stick was dangerous (but it's sadly predictable that it wasn’t penalized late in a tightly contested playoff game). The other point of view on this is that the Department of Player Safety exists to penalize reckless plays as much as they penalize intentional ones. And they've suspended for less.
Combine the lack of any discipline for Letang and the single game handed to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of the Flyers for his atrocious hit from behind, and it’s not been the best week for the Department of Player Safety in the public eye.
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