Fans of "suspend for intent," pop some champagne: James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't injure anyone, seemingly intended to, and received a one-game suspension from the NHL on Tuesday night after these actions in Game 3 against the Flyers:
From the NHL, which also suspended Arron Asham for four games (more on that in a moment).
Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal has been suspended for one game for charging Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux during Game 3 of the teams' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal playoff series Sunday in Philadelphia, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.
The incident occurred at 15:18 of the third period. Neal was assessed a minor penalty for charging and a game misconduct.
Did they get it right?
Essentially, it sounds like the NHL's Department of Player Safety was willing to accept the interference play on Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers wasn't a penalty and might have been incidental contact.
They didn't have the stomach, however, for Neal taking a run at Claude Giroux — who, like Couturier, had a hat trick in Game 2 of the series — and giving him a glancing head shot that dazed him.
Although you can see it on the scoreboard, Brendan Shanahan doesn't explicitly mention another facet of these plays: The game was over at that point, and it was after a series of other violent acts between the teams in the game. It was in that context that Neal was skating around, looking for cheap shots on Penguins players.
Neal was suspended once, fined once and warned twice by the NHL. That too.
Now, there will probably be a few people raging about Neal not getting more than a game, but essentially this was one borderline interference call without any contact with the head on a hit, and a shot to Giroux's head that could have been much worse. The NHL has established how important injuries are to the process; that there wasn't one and he still was banned for a do-or-die game for the Penguins is laudable.
For a League that suspends to the injury too often, it's good to see James Neal lose his chance to extend his team's season for attempting to cause one.