While most Rangers fans would disagree, Game 5 of the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday was a disaster. Despite the Rangers winning against a stacked Penguins roster and defying all odds to stay in the round, the New York team utilized unethical tactics and strategies to get their 5-3 lead against Pittsburgh.
The buzz word surrounding the game is none other than Pittsburgh “Golden Boy” Sidney Crosby, who while being far from his prime era, is still contributing greatly to the Penguins’ success this series. Already having 5 points and 2 goals so far in the playoffs, Crosby is far from a benchwarmer. And with a great performance in the regular season with 31 goals and 69 points, Crosby continues to solidify himself in the Pittsburgh lineup despite his age and veterancy within the franchise. With Crosby’s effort within the Penguins lineup, he continues to be a target for ruthless hits in an attempt to destroy the Pittsburgh core.
This brings us to the spotlight event of Game 5, the highly contested hit to Sidney Crosby’s head by Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba. The much taller and stronger Jacob Trouba clearly had the upper hand when confronting the smaller Sidney Crosby on the ice during the game’s second period. In dissecting the hit itself: Trouba skates towards Crosby on the Rangers zone of the ice. Crosby catches the puck in his mitt, and throws it back down on the ice to resume play. This is when Trouba skates past him and attempts to reach for the puck with his stick but, either intentionally or unintentionally (we are assuming the latter), elbows Crosby in the side of the head. The elbow was not placed in the vicinity of Crosby’s head to brace Trouba’s impact or could have been an attempt at a shoulder check, but upon further review can be concluded to be a distinctly intentional aim at injuring Sidney Crosby. While Crosby did not seem injured in the immediate aftermath of the hit, he skated off to be evaluated in the dressing room and did not return for the rest of the game.
Despite a fantastic Rangers comeback following the hit, fans and sports analysts alike could only discuss the possible repercussions of the Crosby hit on the Rangers defenseman and the overall team’s future in the series. The following Thursday morning after the game, it was revealed by sports insiders that Jacob Trouba will not face a hearing from the NHL Player Safety department and will subsequently not be fined or suspended for the hit on Sidney Crosby. As Tweeted by Arthur Staple, it was “Not deemed an illegal hit, no consideration of injury. Trouba played the puck and followed through, wasn’t targeting the head or ignoring the puck.” This opinion was also voiced by the majority of Rangers fans and pro-Rangers sports analysts. Stating that the Crosby hit was clean and injuries and hits like these are just “a part of playoff hockey.” However, Crosby has been a victim of many similar head hits and has a long history of concussions. As written by Kevin Skiver of The Sporting News, “Crosby has a long history of head injuries. He missed 108 games from 2010-12 because of a concussion and concussion-related symptoms. He missed six games in the 2016-17 season with another concussion. That’s 114 games total missed to concussions and/or concussion symptoms.” This concerning history of concussions for the Pittsburgh center, does not place the Rangers in a good position.
Confronting the NHL’s messy history with concussions and player safety is a necessary task for this incident. Starting in 2011, the NHL’s concussion protocol was a rule implemented to protect players from playing with a concussion or with concussion symptoms and to get them properly evaluated after a hit to the head, even if they are otherwise uninjured. Sidney Crosby fought for the concussion protocol following his string of concussions in the 2010-11 season and no effort being done on the NHL to properly handle them. With the lack of punitive action against Jacob Trouba, this prompts the questions: how many more head injuries can Sidney handle, and why is there such a blatant disregard for his safety and other players’ safety following a hit to the head of this caliber? Jacob Trouba is a repeat offender of massive hits on players such as Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and others, and has never faced disciplinary action for those hits as well. This demonstrates a lack of caring for player safety and allowing powerful and dangerous players to continue reckless behavior, at the expense of unsuspecting players. Injuring opposing teams’ players to get through the playoffs is reckless and shows the unethical lengths the New York Rangers will go to win.