In the NHL, there is no need for the above hit—let alone in a 4-1 game in the closing minutes—that was delivered by Brooks Orpik on Derek Stepan and the league needs to suspend Orpik to send a message. This is an area that is pretty cut and dry unlike other questionable hits like boarding.
Stepan is carrying the puck and Orpik takes Stepan out with a knee-on-knee hit. Why was this necessary? If the game is 3-2 and there is a minute to go and the speed of the game couldn't prevent this hit that's one thing. It doesn't make the hit any better but hockey is a physical sport with inherent risks.
As a result, Orpik was subsequently given a five minute major for kneeing. Due to this, the league will most definitely review the hit because all major penalties are subject to review by the league. The fact of the matter is the Penguins were going to win this game, there was less than five minutes to go and Orpik made no attempt to move his leg out of the way.
He sees Stepan coming and instead of making a clean body check or an attempt to poke check the puck, he continues to follow through. At this point of the game there is no reason to be overtly physical. Orpik is a talented shutdown defender so this is not an action he needed to take.
What makes things worse is following the hit, Orpik continues to skate like he did nothing wrong. While Orpik is not a malicious player, this lack of respect from player to player will continue to fester as long as acts like these are tolerated.
This is not the first time Orpik has hit someone knee on knee. Here is one against Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings. While he wasn't suspended it is still something the league will consider when making a potential ruling.
After the game, head coach John Tortrorella sounded off on the hit and the Penguins as a whole. From Yahoo Sports:
"It's a cheap, dirty hit. I wonder what would happen if we did it to their two whining stars over there. I wonder what would happen. So I'm anxious to see what happens with the League over this. Just no respect among players. None. It's sickening."
"It's one of the most arrogant organizations in the league. They whine about this stuff all the time, and look what happens."
"It's ridiculous. But they'll whine about something else over there, won't they, starting with their two (expletive) stars."
Hall of Fame defenseman and MSG analyst Brian Leetch also had this to say about the hit.
Orpik is a player without an off switch and isn’t a dirty player but that was a dirty hit. “It was a dirty hit at the wrong time.
Tortorella is a fiery coach that doesn't ever hold back. He makes a point that if this hit was against Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, there would be uproar and he is not wrong but the overreaching point is that this should not occur.
Time after time Crosby has gotten the benefit of the doubt. There was this blatant slew foot on Ryan Callahan in which Callahan was penalized. He has also been called a hypocrite when it comes to headshots and media personalities have even taken swipes at Crosby and because he is known for whining at officials.
Evgeni Malkin is also known to have a short temper and has been penalized for retaliatory hits and slew footing in the past. There is no real basis for them to complain about injustices committed if they themselves commit similar acts. This issue is about respect for fellow players. This was a regular season game with nothing at stake.
Players should be able to police the game and respect each other but hits like this are just bad.
At the end of the day, this hit is blatantly wrong an until the league hands out suspensions for hits like this, they will continue to exist in the NHL.
Orpik should be suspended for this and if it follows the precedent set when Kevin Porter earned a four game suspension for a knee-on-knee on David Booth, he will at the very least miss a playoff game or two.
Tom Urtz Jr is a NHL Featured Columnist.
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