The Edmonton Oilers came into Game 4 in San Jose with a 2-1 series lead and a general good feeling that they could keep up their regular season fortunes and compete with the NHL's best, possibly leading to a lengthly playoff run.
Game 4, however, was a reminder of how full of adversity the trip to the Stanley Cup can be.
Already trailing the Sharks 5-0 with a little more than a quarter of the second period still to play, the Oilers were at a point in the game where things could get out of hand. Whether those "things" would remain on the scoreboard, or descend into overboard physical or stick play was still to be determined — until Leon Draisaitl stepped up and senselessly gave a good, hard spear to Chris Tierney's groin.
It's not a comfortable one to watch.
Draisaitl was given a well-earned five-minute major and game misconduct for the vicious spear and could be hearing from the Department of Player Safety.
Will he be suspended for this tremendously dumb play? Consider this:
When the league suspended Matt Calvert for a cross-check at the end of an out-of-reach game against the Penguins in their series, the reasoning was explained thusly:
"This is not a hockey play in the sense that it has nothing to do with pursuit of the puck or establishing body position...
"Finally and most importantly, we believe this play falls under the category of message sending. Late in the game with the score out of reach, Calvert delivers this blow to an opponent he will be facing again the next game. While we understand frustration often occurs at the end of a game, dangerous or retaliatory plays delivered in the closing minutes of a playoff game will be viewed in context and punished accordingly."
Draisaitl's spear may not have come in the closing minutes of a game, but the Oilers were well out of it and frustration appears to be a factor here. If message sending and frustration in an out-of-reach game was a factor in suspending Calvert for his "non-hockey play" it would seem likely the same line of thinking could come in to play for Draisaitl.
A couple factors that could work in Draisaitl's favour, though:
1. Since he was booted from the game and missed nearly half of it, that could be viewed by the league as effective discipline and see no need for further punishment.
2. He has no suspension history
3. Tierney returned to the game.
What do you think?
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