PITTSBURGH – Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks waited 1,576 regular season and playoff games to play in his first Stanley Cup final game and he doesn’t think he should have to wait any time to play his second. He likely won’t.
Expect the NHL to take a long, hard look at his hit on Bryan Rust of the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the third period of Game 1, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the NHL to impose any supplementary discipline. Marleau took a minor for an illegal check to the head when he caught Rust in open ice. Rust went to the Quiet Room and was cleared to come back to the game, but played just one shift before calling it a night.
Kind of makes one wonder exactly what goes on in the Quiet Room when a player can get back out there so quickly, then get pulled out of the game. But that’s perhaps a discussion for another day. Rust is out day-to-day with the laughable “upper-body injury” according to Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.
“I just tried to keep everything down and I didn’t want to get too up high,” Marleau said. “I don’t think (there will be any supplemental discipline). I kept my shoulder in and my elbow and everything in. I just kind of let him skate into me.”
It’s likely the NHL will see it the same way. Rule 48, which governs headshots, talks about whether the hits involved were avoidable or not. And in determining whether it was avoidable, the league considers the following: “Whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not ‘picked’ as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.”
Should the Penguins be without Rust for any discernible length of time, it will be a blow to their Cup hopes. Rust scored the first goal of the game, his sixth of the playoffs, and has goals in three straight playoff games and points in four straight.
“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” Sullivan said. “He gets a penalty. I’m sure the league will look at it."