The NHL takes hits to the head very seriously and the NHL’s leading scorer could be facing a one-game suspension for a hit in Game 2.
Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov was handed a five-minute major penalty for boarding on Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara in Tampa Bay’s 5-1 loss to Columbus on Friday.
The hit may not have been intentionally high as Nutivaara went down to his knees, but Kucherov clearly hit him heavy to the head when he sent him to the boards. All in all on the play he was hit with tripping, boarding and a game misconduct for 17 minutes of penalties in about five seconds.
#APRIL12 #CBJvsTBL 3rd period
Here was the #GoBolts Nikita Kucherov boarding penalty against #CBJ Markus Nutivaara pic.twitter.com/9BxDdlI1Vn
— John Smith (@ThisIsMyReplay) April 13, 2019
Hits like this often result in the NHL’s now notable “five and a game” situation in which the player is penalized both in the game and a suspension in the team’s next outing. Now, Kucherov was not given a match penalty, so a “five and a game” situation is not required, but it could be coming.
It was a game misconduct though so he was automatically ejected. Victor Hedman and Josh Anderson were also ejected from the game in the ensuing scrum.
The NHL announced Kucherov will be having a hearing related to his hit on Saturday.
Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov will have a hearing tomorrow for Boarding Columbus’ Markus Nutivaara.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 13, 2019
Now, Kucherov is not known as a dirty player and has not been hit with a suspension before for such a hit, but in last year’s playoffs he faced one when the Lightning took on the Devils.
He escaped a suspension for that controversial hit on defenseman Sami Vatanen, but it’s possible this one could be considered more serious which could result in him missing Game 3.
That would be the worst possible outcome for Tampa Bay as the team is already down 2-0 in the series and Kucherov led the world in scoring this season.
Kucherov finished the year with 41 goals and 87 assists. He led the NHL in both assists and points.
However, through two games of the first round Kucherov has yet to record a point.
Despite that, his absence would be a massive blow to the Lightning going forward and if the Blue Jackets get up 3-0 in the series, it could be nearly impossible for Tampa Bay to come back despite the awesome regular season it just had.