By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Blues forward Ivan Barbashev avoided a penalty with his hit to the head of the Bruins' Marcus Johansson during Game 5. He may not avoid a suspension, though.
NHL Player Safety has tweeted that Barbashev will have a hearing over his hit to Johansson on Thursday at TD Garden. It understandably conjured up memories of Matt Cooke irreparably damaging Marc Savard's life and career back in 2010.
Barbashev's hit obviously didn't rise to the level of viciousness that Cooke had, because Johansson apparently didn't get injured on the play. But it was a clear hit to the head with possibly malicious intent, which should have been at least a minor penalty. The principal point of contact is Johansson's face and, despite his hunched-over posture, Barbashev had Johansshon lined up before he even got rid of the puck and had plenty of time to let up or deliver a cleaner shoulder-to-shoulder check.
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) June 7, 2019
A side-by-side of Barbashev's hit on Johansson and Matt Cooke's hit on Marc Savard in 2010. Cooke's hit all but ended Savard's career. No penalty on the Barbashev hit. #Bruins #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/Yc3J03EvID
— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) June 7, 2019
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy partially blamed the lack of a penalty on Barbashev on the officials letting Blues head coach Craig Berube influence them with his complaints after Game 3.
"Well those are the hits they want to get out of the game, correct? Those are the hits that I hear a lot about, clearly they missed a couple tonight," Cassidy said after the game. "It’s a fast game. I sat here two days ago or whatever it was and said I believe these officials are at this level because they earned the right to be here and you should be getting the best. The narrative changed after Game 3, there was a complaint or whatever put forth by the opposition and it just seemed to change everything."
And even if Barbashev served two minutes for it, he still deserves to serve a game for a hit like that - if not for the remainder of the series.
Recent precedent suggests that Barbashev will be suspended, and it's just a question of whether it's only for Game 6 or for a possible Game 7 as well. Everyone who has been given a hearing in the 2019 playoffs - including the Blues' Oskar Sundqvist earlier in the series for a high hit on Matt Grzelcyk - has been handed a suspension.
Ultimately, it's not likely losing Barbashev has that much of an effect on the Blues. But he will certainly get what he deserves for what was an unquestionably dirty hit.
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].