New York Rangers left-winger Brandon Prust has been suspended for his high elbow to Anton Volchenkov's head in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals versus the New Jersey Devils.
NHL Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan's decision is not surprising. Hits to the head are not taken lightly in today's NHL, nor should they be.
Ranger Rants had several player reactions regarding Shanahan's decision and the hit itself.
Volchenkov agreed with Shanahan's decision.
It’s right. I got hit in the head. But it’s not my decision. It’s a decision for Brendan Shanahan. My decision is just to play hockey.
Derek Stepan addressed his teammate's playing style and his intentions.
I’ve known Prusty to be an honest player all year long. He plays physical and he plays it that way and we’ve never had an incident like this. I think Brandon is just trying to play his game and not trying to do anything.
Brad Richards also spoke to Prust's reputation and his view on the hit.
We know Prust is an honest player. It’s the game of hockey, sometimes things happen. He’s definitely not going out there trying to head hunt, he’s never done it how many games he’s played. He plays the game the right way, it’s not really big issue in the room with that. Look at the whole game, there’s more than that one incident.
Brian Boyle commented on his Ranger teammate's style of play and how it benefits the team.
He’s been huge for us. I think he does a lot of grunt work. He does a lot of heavy lifting. And he’s been hitting it really hard. He’s really done it the right way, I think. Not a dirty player by any means. He’s done a lot for us. He stands up to guys a lot bigger than him and heavier than him. And we played a lot the last couple of years together. It’s been a lot of fun.
The series has been physical overall. Questionable hits have flown both ways, and Shanahan was bound to penalize someone.
Did Brendan Shanahan make the right choice?
Prust has never been suspended in his NHL career. That is probably why he got just one game, but Prust's hard work and gritty attitude on the ice will be missed in Game 4.
The Ranger brass and players can complain all they want, but the suspension was deserved and fair.
Prust will serve his one-game suspension, come back for Game 4, and provide the same physical presence that he always does.
Decisions handed down by Shanahan have been questioned throughout the season and playoffs, and he will undoubtedly be criticized again, but he hit this one on the head.
Prust's hit did not injure Volchenkov, and he didn't seem to have that intent. But Shanahan must once again set a standard and example nonetheless. Going high on a player is dangerous, regardless of the outcome.
Until players avoid high hits due to fear of suspension, Shanahan's job is not complete. Granted, Prust may not be a dirty player, but that shouldn't make a difference. A dangerous hit is a dangerous hit, and players initiating these hits must be taught a lesson for the future.
The NHL's safety standards have been questioned over the past few seasons. Implementing suspensions like this on a rational, and consistent, basis could be the key to returning order to today's hockey world.