On Sunday night Matt Niskanen delivered a cross-check to the head of Sidney Crosby which knocked Crosby out of the game in the first period. Niskanen also received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. The Capitals went on to win the game 3–2 in overtime and the series now sits at 2–1 Pittsburgh. While the hit was certainly deserving of a penalty and likely a game misconduct the hit didn’t warrant a suspension for Niskanen. I don’t believe Niskanen was trying to take Crosby out or that he had intent to injure him.
Niskanen isn’t known as a dirty player and doesn’t have a history of suspensions. The play itself did look dirty in slow motion but in real-time the play looked like instinct. Niskanen braced himself for a pending collision it just so happened that Crosby was falling to the ice and Niskanen braced with his hands coming up. Niskanen ended up cross-checking Crosby in the head and Crosby struggled to get back up. A play like this happens in hockey it wasn’t intentional but it did deserve discipline.
Intent to injure is a hard thing to judge it stems from prior incidents and it can pretty much only be called when two players have a history with each other. Although, the two did fight way back in 2010 that was before they became teammates. Aside from that the two haven’t had any other incidents and they spent four seasons together in Pittsburgh without an issues.
At the end of the day Niskanen did avoid a suspension but Crosby will be questionable the rest of the series. Yes it sucks that Crosby is knocked out but it was a hockey play and by no means intentional on Niskanen’s part. That being said hopefully Crosby is alright and can get back on the ice soon. Pittsburgh and Washington face off for game 4 tonight at 7:30 on NBCSN.
Written By: Tyler Smith (@TylerSmith4386)