Thankfully, we won’t ever know how much damage Evgeni Malkin could have done had he connected when whipping his stick around recklessly toward the head of Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl on Monday, but that doesn’t mean the Pittsburgh Penguins star should escape punishment from the league office.
This is a play that probably shouldn’t be ignored:
Evgeni Malkin was ejected for swinging his stick at the head of a Philadelphia Fleyers player 🏒👀 pic.twitter.com/k7m53nNsop
— Listen2This1✌️ (@Listen2ThisOne) February 12, 2019
Exactly what discipline will be levied — be it a fine or a suspension — will be decided by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety after a phone hearing Tuesday.
Malkin had already started into his defense for the one-handed stick swing after the game — and what was a 4-1 victory for the Penguins. And while he admitted that it was a dirty play, he suggested that Raffl deserved some retaliation for punching him the back of the head while the two scrummed for a puck in the neutral zone.
Malkin added that he wasn’t trying to hit Raffl in the head — and was sure to point out that he didn’t, instead missing high — before taking exception to the fact that he was penalized.
“I’m not trying to hit his face… I know it’s dirty, but I missed,” Malkin said, according to Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He just like dived and the referee give me five minutes. (He wasn’t) injured, not bleeding, nothing.”
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan did his part to protect his star:
“I just think on Geno’s part it was reactionary. He was getting punched in the back of the head. It was a battle between the two of them and I think it was reactionary. I was a little surprised it was a match because the player didn’t get hurt on it or there wasn’t real significant contact. But that’s now how the referee saw it.”
Malkin cannot be suspended for more than five games, as the hearing will take place over the phone.
A few starts would likely be the maximum ban anyway, despite the potential severity of Malkin’s crime.
More NHL coverage on Yahoo Sports