The NHL's hockey operations department issued many of the same reminders in its pre-playoff conference call on Monday with NHL coaches and general managers. The league once again stressed teams stay away from each other in the pre-game warmup, and warned all late-game message-sending will be disciplined.
Although there wasn't a specific discussion on elbow-related incidents or elbowing penalties during the conference call, the trend of seven consecutive sanctions for elbows to the head in the regular season is a hot-button topic for some team executives. Are all elbows to the head suspendable in the playoffs? Should there be more tolerance or leniency in the playoffs, and if so, will this encourage players to embellish after getting hit?
In the final game of the regular season for Chicago and Detroit, Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader leveled Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook with an elbow to the face in the third period. No penalty was called on the play, even though, because of the NHL's hard-line on headshots, some suggested the possibility of suspension or at least a fine should have been applied. It wasn't.
Conversely, the Vancouver Canucks were upset after Raffi Torres received a 4-game suspension for elbowing Edmonton rookie Jordan Eberle in the head. Torres and the Canucks felt the punishment was too severe for a player who had never been suspended before.
Hockey Ops says the officials have been instructed to call and enforce all rules as they did in the regular season and assured the 16 postseason clubs, there would be continuity with supplemental discipline as well. Quirky trends emerge this time of year and they're impossible to predict, but the TSN tally board is prepped and ready in the event this year's crop of playoff participants takes a run at last year's record number of too many men on the ice penalties. 36 is a tough number to beat.