Claude Giroux was issued a two minute minor for illegal contact to the head in the second period of Game 4 between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils. Giroux hit Dainius Zubrus in the head. While Zubrus was shaken up from the hit, he did continue to take shifts in the third period. The punishment did not end with just a two minute minor. The NHL held a hearing with Giroux about the hit and suspended him for one game.
For a full explanation of the hit, Brendan Shanahan explains the ruling in this video:
What strikes me about the decision was that Shanahan found it worthy to discuss Giroux's actions before the hit. The video shows Giroux yelling at the ref before Zubrus even got the puck, Giroux dishing out a two-handed slash to Zubrus' stick, and then the actual hit to the head - which came after Zubrus chipped the puck ahead. Giroux was clearly frustrated and so the league felt Giroux's intent was malicious. He acted out of frustration. Shanahan's use of "reckless" to describe the hit was on point. I didn't think he'd get a suspension when I did my recap. However, after seeing this video and following this logic, I can see why the league is giving him a more severe punishment than a fine or just the penalty called in the game.
It does beg the question whether Giroux would have not been suspended if he didn't chirp at the ref and give Zubrus' stick a two-hander. That's a gray area. If the hit to the head wasn't late, say while Zubrus had the puck, then maybe he doesn't get a game. However, Giroux crossed the line and the league isn't letting this one side.
While Giroux has underachieved at even strength in this series, I wouldn't take this to mean that Game 5 will be a gimmie for the Devils. Sure, it's not a bad thing that the team's top forward won't play in this game. Match-ups should be easier as Peter Laviolette will have to re-organize his lineup to account for Giroux's absence. However, the Flyers have plenty of talented forwards and they can use this news in addition to their 3-1 series deficit to rally together for a strong performance on Tuesday night. The good news is that the Devils are cognizant of that possibility. As Peter DeBoer was quoted in the end of this post at Fire & Ice by Tom Gulitti about the suspension, it's the sort of thing a team can come together and rise above the setback. Hopefully, this will translate to a strong performance by the Devils as they look to finish off the Flyers in the second round tomorrow.
Now that you've seen the video along with the news, I want to know your take on this suspension? Do you think the NHL made the right call? Do you understand the league's argument regardless of whether you agree with the decision? Do you think the Devils will take advantage; or do you now fear a Flyers response in Game 5 followed by a free Giroux in Game 6? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Giroux's suspension in the comments. Thank you for reading.