By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Steven Stamkos scored the game-tying goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their Game 4 win over the Bruins. But the Lightning center could also be getting a call from the Department of Player Safety.
Late in the first period, Stamkos delivered an illegal hit to the head of Bruins winger Rick Nash. As both battled for the puck, Stamkos caught Nash's head with his elbow and forearm. He was assessed a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head on the play.
Watch the hit and judge for yourself:
Stamkos with the hit to the head on Rick Nash, and hell sit for less than two minutes thanks to David Pastrnakhttps://t.co/xUCYXFfbKJ
— StanleyCup ofChowder (@cupofchowdah) May 4, 2018
A look at that Stamkos contact on Nash pic.twitter.com/c2xL35RpZS
— Jeremy Perrigo (@jeremyperrigo) May 4, 2018
The reason that Player Safety could take a look at the hit is obvious: Nash's head was quite clearly the principal point of contact. It's a good test for the league to see if they have the gall to suspend the Lightning superstar for Game 5 with a chance for them to close out the series.
However, it ultimately wouldn't be much of a surprise if Stamkos didn't get disciplined for the hit. He received a penalty for it, Nash wasn't injured, and the latter was hunched over and in a vulnerable position on the play. The league will have to assess whether head contact was avoidable, and the case for that is borderline.
Stamkos has never been suspended in his 10-year career.
The league has been active in handing out suspensions for dangerous hits in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, most recently hitting Capitals defenseman Tom Wilson for three games for a hit that concussed and broke the jaw of the Penguins' Zach Aston-Reese. The Bruins got the benefit of such a ruling when the Toronto Maple Leafs' Nazem Kadri received a three-game suspension for a hit on Tommy Wingels. The league also showed that they're not above suspending star players, as evidenced by a one-game ban for Kings defenseman Drew Doughty in the first round.
Stamkos' hit may not result in supplemental discipline, but an illegal hit to the head is an illegal hit to the head. So for Player Safety, it should at least be worth a second look, and it's a situation worth monitoring ahead of Sunday's Game 5.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].