Did Brooks Orpik deserve three-game suspension for Maatta hit?

So did the NHL just hurt or help the Washington Capitals?

Defenseman Brooks Orpik has been suspended three playoff games for his head-shot on Olli Maatta of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. The incident occurred at 4:13 of the first period. Orpik was assessed a minor penalty for interference

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said that Orpik thought the puck was coming back to Maatta after a shot and a rebound. “There’s a real size difference, and Maata leaned into it a little bit,” he said after Game 2.

The NHL saw it differently

It was easy to see that Orpik was going to be suspended. It violates two basic tenets of Department of Player Safety dogma: It’s a hit that shouldn’t have been delivered, and it was a hit that caused significant contact with an opponent’s head, injuring him.

“This hit is forceful, unacceptably high and excessively late,” said the ruling.

What’s surprising is that Orpik was given three games for it, considering he hasn’t been suspended since the 2005-06 season. (Although we don’t know how many warnings he’s received.) Using the unofficial playoff game multiplier, that’s a six-gamer in the regular season.

But this ruling isn’t without precedent: Please recall Brent Seabrook getting three games for his hit on David Backes of the St. Louis Blues in 2014, the infamous “wakey wakey” incident. Seabrook had a clean record as far as suspensions, but was still hit with a three-gamer for the reckless, targeted hit.

Given that the NHL probably has a better idea of Maata’s status from the Penguins than does the public, and given all the other context, it’s easy to see how they arrived at three games. It’s just always surprising when they drop the hammer like this, considering how trigger shy they can be in the playoffs.

But as we said off the top … does this actually help the Capitals?

Orpik had a 44.76-percent Corsi rating (score adjusted, five on five) in five games for the Capitals in the playoffs. Swap him out for Dmitry Orlov, and isn’t this a better team?

The real punishment would have been to force the Capitals to play him more.


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.