One side is adamant that it was completely reactionary with no malintent, the other is sure that it was pre-meditated and Niskanen targeted Sid’s head.
There’s so many ways to interpret this situation and everyone’s opinion will be different and swayed by biases, but I’ll do my best to break this play down objectively.
Here’s the play:
niskanen's stick gets crosby in the head pic.twitter.com/muR5IFbDhJ
— evgeni malkin's ego (@EvgeniMaIkinEgo) May 1, 2017
Crosby is driving the net hard, as any good center should, and Ovechkin comes in with a slash on Sid’s right shoulder. Ovi’s stick rides up and actually hits Sid on the left side of his head. It’s not an overly dirty play, but it’s a slash and it should’ve been called. It’s a penalty plain and simple.
Next, you can see Ovechkin’s skate also bumps Sid’s skate and I believe that is what ultimately knocks him off balance and leads to him sliding low to the ice.
I don’t see enough people questioning Ovechkin’s part in this. Without his careless slash, this play never happens. And I get it, that slash happens a hundred times every game, it’s not anything to deem malicious, but it lead to the devastating outcome.
This is where Niskanen comes in.
Niskanen sees Crosby coming across the crease and he fully intends to deliver a crosscheck on 87 as he comes across to the back post. That’s not a hockey play. He’s been going after Crosby all series, and in fact, they’ve sparred ever since Niskanen was in the league.
However, with that being said, I think there is absolutely zero intent to crosscheck Crosby in the head. Niskanen simply didn’t have enough time to plan that out. If you’re one of the people watching it in slow motion and exclaiming, “Niskanen had 5 seconds to react!”, you need to see a doctor. At full-speed, it’s obvious that Niskanen had a fraction of a second at most.
He had already decided that he was going to cross check Sid as he came through, he put his stick up in a dangerous position, and he extended his arms. That’s on him, and that’s not a hockey play. No one is responsible for Niskanen’s stick but himself.
No matter if he meant to do it or not, it was a cross-check to head and he completely deserved the 5 minute major and game misconduct.
The main villain here is the NHL and their officiating, especially in the playoffs. If there is not a culture which promotes letting things go in the playoffs and only calling crosschecks and headshots whenever is convenient, then the thought of “giving Crosby a shot” on his way by never crosses Niskanen’s mind.
You would expect the NHL would have tried to change this by now with the pending concussion lawsuits against them, but they apparently seem to be more worried about preserving the barbaric “old-time hockey” style than protecting the brains of their most valuable players.
Watch the end of this clip on Crosby’s assist to Kessel from game 2.
sidney crosby, you are ridiculous pic.twitter.com/dNRiyNsu0J
— evgeni malkin's ego (@EvgeniMaIkinEgo) April 30, 2017
Did you notice the two-handed slash on Crosby’s leg by Niskanen well after the puck was gone in the play was over?
If the NHL doesn’t let little whacks and hacks go all of the time and instead demands that its players play the game with more respect for their opponents, then Niskanen never even attempts that cross-check on Crosby last night.
He didn’t mean to get him in the head, but he definitely was going for a crosscheck on one of the Penguins star players. He put his stick in that position and it should have never been there.
He did it because that is what playoff hockey inspires, taking those little cheap shots at your opponents because it is an accepted part of the culture. Every team does it. It was dirty, it wasn’t a hockey play, and it’s 100% on Niskanen.
Penguins fans should be pissed.
Hockey fans should be pissed.
Sidney Crosby is one of the greatest players of all-time and he’s already lost a large chunk of his career due to head injuries because of the shear incompetence and disregard for player safety in the NHL.
I’m worried about this series.
I’m worried about Sidney Crosby the hockey player.
But more importantly, I’m worried about Sidney Crosby the human being.
How many more shots like this can he take at only 29 years old?
This whole incident has made me sick and I’m not sure I’ll feel any better until an update comes on the Penguins captain, or even then.
I hope Crosby is okay. I hope he’s back soon. I hope he just sat out as a precaution.
But right now there’s so much eerie uncertainty.
I don’t want to wonder what Sidney Crosby would’ve played like in his 30’s.
Crosby has a concussion. Out tomorrow. Evaluate after.
— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) May 2, 2017
The absolute worst news. Second concussion in 7 months.
There’s no words for this. I am absolutely sick.
I’m no doctor, but it’s hard to imagine Sid coming back any time soon.
Prayers for Sidney Crosby the human being.