Ryan Callahan escapes suspension for Kris Letang hit in Game 1

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Greg Wyshynski
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Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan will not have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety for his hit from behind on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang in Game 1 on Friday night.

Which isn’t going to go over well with Penguins fans, and those wondering why a hit like this doesn't fall under the "stop delivering these" aim of the Department. 

Callahan delivered the hit roughly three minutes into Game 1. Letang chased the puck deep into the corner of his defensive zone. He looked back at Callahan and turned while playing the puck to a teammate. Callahan crushed him, making significant contact with Letang’s head as it hit the glass.

Callahan was given a five-minute major. Curiously, he wasn’t ejected from the game, despite Letang staying down for a bit after the hit. (Letang left the ice at 2:37 of the first and returned for a shift at 12:25. He finished the game with 27:34 of ice time.)

Said Callahan after the game:

I'm trying to ride him in there obviously on the fore-check, and unfortunately, he turns at the last second. I'm committed, I think, when he turns his head, and his body is pretty low. So I'm trying to pin him, and in that split second, I can't really make a decision.

Unfortunately, I think the position he was in made it worse than it was, and it was good to see him come back. Obviously, you don't want to see anybody injured, and that's not what you're trying to do.

You know, that's not the way I play. I've never been fined or suspended. So I take a lot of pride in that, to be an honest player. It was good to see that he came back.

Just trying to pin him, you see:

NHL
NHL

Look, there’s actually a case to be made for Callahan here.

Letang puts his body in a vulnerable position in playing the puck to a teammate – crouching slightly as Callahan comes through with his hit.

But the idea that Callahan was going for a simple pin to the boards is a bit unfounded. He gives him a decent pop with his forearm, if not exactly the shove that Pierre-Edouard Bellemare gave Dmitry Orlov back in Round 1 to earn a one-gamer. And it’s not as if Letang significantly stopped short before getting to the boards. 

There are two problems with not suspending Callahan here. The first is that he should have been kicked out of Game 1 just about three minutes into it, along with his major penalty. Instead, he played 14:16, delivered six hits and was on the ice for a power-play goal for the Lightning. His night should have ended on his second shift, so losing Game 2 would have been justified. 

The second problem is that, again, it seems like Player Safety is in a “suspend to the injury” rut. There’s no question that if Letang is done for the night, Callahan’s done for Game 2. We all know this. But he played on, and Callahan doesn’t even get a hearing.

What do you think of the decision?

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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.

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