5 Players Who Will Spend the Most Time in the Penalty Box During NHL Playoffs
The best-case officiating scenario in the Stanley Cup playoffs has the referees reserving their whistles strictly for egregious infractions that threaten a player’s safety or draws an unfair advantage for the offending team.
But due to the escalated intensity of a postseason game, that approach cannot be guaranteed. Rougher play and more kinetic emotion render the more intense players prone to penalty time, particularly when a competitive opponent is clicking and spinning their heads in the attacking zone.
The fact that there are four Northeast Division teams in the opening round, facing each other in two different matchups of Boston-Toronto and Montreal-Ottawa, is one way to give some individuals a “jump-start,” as it were.
Since there is no foolproof way to foretell whose team will reach the final round, it is impossible to project who will have the most swollen penalty-minute count in the 2013 playoffs. But at least in terms of the prime suspects to chalk up a notable number of penalty minutes per game played, here are five competitors to watch for.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com.
Although he may not do anything else suspension-worthy from here on out, the circumstances surrounding Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown’s recent two-game ban and his no-secret habit of hitting will doubtlessly subject him to extra officiating scrutiny.
Brown’s elbow on Minnesota’s Jason Pominville occurred in his team’s third-to-last game of the regular season, at which both parties still had high stakes in the standings to play for. The intensity of the games and that of Brown’s personal game are not likely to let up now that the stakes are elevated and equal for all parties.
This is not to say that Brown will cease to deliver any of the same valuable physicality and offensive prowess that he always does. The fact is his approach will inevitably lead to his share of citations and will permeate the penalty column of the scoresheet as much as he fills the goal/assist side.
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Among teams that qualified for the postseason, the Vancouver Canucks finished either third or fourth in terms of cumulative minor penalties, total penalties and total penalty minutes.
Gritty defenseman Kevin Bieksa was one of the reasons why. He played 36 regular-season games and incurred 48 minutes in the sin bin for an exact ratio of three per game. Those were the product of 19 minors and two majors.
Assuming he suits up for the full length of Vancouver’s run and there are not too many fights for Zack Kassian, Tom Sestito or Dale Weise to engage in, Bieksa is a prime candidate to top the team’s PIM chart.
Like Brown, Zdeno Chara is a roundly braced captain of a recent championship team who is as aggressive and physical as he is skillful, if not more so. In turn, he too will bring all the makings of a player who will fill every area of the game sheet in the postseason.
The Bruins are starting this year’s postseason by facing a divisional rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose league-leading team count of 1,626 hits points to a call on Chara to lead a charge to ensure Boston matches their intensity.
If and when emotions grow overwhelmingly carbonated, Chara will be especially penalty-prone.
If Boston prevails, it will likely need to next deal with another rival in Montreal or a team permeated with celestial offensive talent in Pittsburgh or Washington. That, too, is recipe for drawing multiple infractions on the towering Bruin, even when he is levelheaded and conducting business as usual.
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There’s more than his numbers behind the expectation that Chris Neil will have a notable ice-time-to-penalty-time ratio for as long as Ottawa is in the playoffs. There is more to it than the fact that he stood out with 144 regular-season penalty minutes with a diverse spread of 27 minors, six majors and five misconducts.
There is even more to it than the fact that he is the sole reason why the Senators were third in the league this year with 13.6 PIM per game and sixth with 197 two-minute minors.
Besides all of that, Neil is starting this postseason against Montreal, which is not only a Northeast Division rival, but also led the league with 203 opposing penalties drawn in the 2013 regular season.
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Depending on how far his Montreal Canadiens go, former New York Ranger Brandon Prust will all but inescapably be in a position to continue his recent trend of swollen penalty-minute totals.
The first round will feature a divisional date with the Ottawa Senators, whom he racked up 19 PIM against in a seven-game series as a Blueshirt last year. Assuming the Habs get past that, their next adversary could be another Northeast foe in Boston or Toronto.
If it’s not that, then it will likely be the Capitals, whom Prust previously played against in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs, taking four minors in 12 games over that span. If Montreal is still playing beyond that point, it could have its hands full with the Penguins in the conference finals.
A less likely scenario, but one that would also set Prust up for a rivalry renewal from his Ranger days: Montreal versus the Islanders. Or even, perhaps, an encounter with his old teammates from Manhattan.
No matter who the Habs play, the adversary will have realistic potential to provoke Prust, who may not need much provocation to begin with. After all, he was brought to Montreal to, as they would say in Slap Shot, approach these competitive games in a “Let ’em know you’re there” fashion.