Philadelphia Flyers center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare served 27 penalty minutes over the course of 74 games during the regular season, but it took him a split second to rack up more than half of that total in Game 3 against the Washington Capitals and earn himself a one-game suspension.
Bellemare picked up 15 minutes in penalties Monday when, in a game that had already gotten out of hand, he drove Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov headfirst into the boards behind the Washington net.
As the two approached the corner, Orlov appeared to slow up in order to control the play and initiate contact with Bellemare, but the Flyers pivot was not impeded at all, instead violently checking Orlov into the boards. Bellemare seemed concerned for Orlov, but the Capitals defenseman remained down on the ice for the duration of a scrum between the two teams before skating off under his own power. For his effort, Bellemare was sent to the showers:
Thankfully, Orlov, 24, was able to get to the bench under his own power. Though Orlov did return to the game and he did take part in post-game interviews, there’s good reason to believe he’ll undergo further testing ahead of Game 4 to ensure he’s not suffering any ill effects or symptoms from the hit. That he wasn’t seriously injured seems almost miraculous given the way his head makes contact with the boards.
In the suspension video, the NHL Department of Player Safety director Patrick Burke acknowledges that Orlov losing his edge at the point of contact made the impact even more dangerous, but added the onus for the hit falls squarely on Bellemare.
“From the moment he hits the top of the circles, Bellemare sees nothing but Orlov’s numbers. The angle Bellemare takes ensures that he will have to make contact directly with Orlov’s back. Tracking Orlov for some time, Bellemare has ample time to adjust his angle of approach, minimize the force of the hit or avoid this hit completely.”
Bellemare will now be unable to suit up for the Flyers in Game 4 of the first-round series, and if Philadelphia can’t win Wednesday night, Bellemare’s season could be over.