The Pittsburgh Penguins' Arron Asham has been suspended for four games, or what could amount to the rest of the first round, for his role in Sunday's Quarterfinals Game 3 match with the Philadelphia Flyers, as announced by NHL VP of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan Tuesday evening.
Penguins' winger James Neal has received a one-game suspension for his part in the skirmishes, which included questionable run-ins with Flyers forwards Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal has been suspended for one game for charging Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux during Game 3 of the teams’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinal playoff series Sunday in Philadelphia, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
The incident occurred at 15:18 of the third period. Neal was assessed a minor penalty for charging and a game misconduct.
The announcements were formalities following the events of Sunday's game in which the Penguins fell to a 3-0 series deficit against their cross-state opponent.
Neal faced two separate phone hearings for the incidents with Giroux and Couturier, while Asham had an in-person hearing—generally a precursor to at least a five-game suspension.
Pittsburgh has stated that it will support the league's decisions in full—an uncommon move for a team to make preceding the statements of discipline.
Owner Mario Lemieux was described as "disappointed" and "embarrassed" by the club's actions, though he has thus far declined to speak publicly on the matter.
Did the league get the suspensions correct?
The plays by Neal and Asham represented the boiling point of a Penguins team that has been unable to protect leads and every mistake made has been turned into either a goal or positive play by the Flyers.
The suspensions also come as black marks for a franchise that was publicly and harshly critical of dirty play by the New York Islanders last season and was forced to threaten termination of contract with forward Matt Cooke after he received what amounted to a 17-game suspension late last season.
Shanahan's rulings will relieve the Penguins of the services of four regular forwards heading into Wednesday's do-or-die game in Philadelphia.
The Penguins are already without Craig Adams, whose automatic one-game suspension for instigating in the last five minutes of Sunday's game was upheld by the league Monday night.
Five Penguins have been suspended for one or more games in the last two postseasons, with Adams, Asham and Neal joining Chris Kunitz (one game) and Cooke (seven games) in last year's series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Dan Bylsma was fined $10,000 for Adams' part in the brawl.
Richard Park, Joe Vitale, Eric Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey can expect to fill the vacated roster spots. Vitale has appeared in two games this postseason, and Park one.
Wednesday figures to be the first playoff action of the season for Tangradi and Jeffrey.
The Penguins' disciplinary cases are hardly the first Shanahan's office has faced this offseason.
Dirty play has resulted in fines or suspensions for Shea Weber, Byron Bitz, Andrew Shaw and others, while penalty minutes, match penalties and fighting majors are staggeringly regular across this postseason.
Brendan Shanahan has come under criticism for inconsistency in his rulings, though at this point it has to be considered obvious that there are forces greater than Shanahan in the league who are forcing his hand.
Add to the list a second violent charge to an opponent's head in as many seasons for Phoenix's Raffi Torres (last year of the Vancouver Canucks), whose flying head shot put Chicago's Marian Hossa onto a stretcher and into the hospital Tuesday night.
Quite literally, another terrible hit is happening faster than the stories about the last one can be written.
To what end the powers that be in the NHL have allowed such miserable physicality to occur is as good a guess as anyone's.