The NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed down its latest suspension Thursday night, announcing the Jets will be without Mark Scheifele for the next four games.
Scheifele charged at Canadiens forward Jake Evans in Game 1 of the teams’ second-round series. He will miss Games 2-5 of the best of seven. Winnipeg trails 1-0 entering Game 2 on Saturday.
Evans, who scored his first career postseason goal in the game, will be out indefinitely.
Why was Mark Scheifele suspended?
In the last minute of Wednesday’s series opener between the Jets and Canadiens, Montreal’s Jake Evans skated full steam down the ice, grabbed a loose puck and scored an empty-net goal with 56.9 seconds left in regulation. As he was giving his team a 5-3 lead (which would be the final score), Evans was leveled by Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, who delivered a hard, high and unsuspecting hit.
(WARNING: This video may be disturbing to some viewers.)
“I think it’s disgusting, no respect for the other players out there,” Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi said postgame.
Evans hit the ice hard and was down for a considerable amount of time before being stretchered off. He did give a thumbs up on his way off the ice. Scheifele was given a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.
“He’s doing better. We have our two doctors with us, so they took care of him last night. They didn’t feel the need to bring him to the hospital, which was good news,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said Thursday, adding Evans has a concussion. “He’s certainly going to miss some time — a lot of time — but it’s hard to judge (how much) right now.”
MORE: Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers explains why he shielded Evans from scrum
What is the NHL’s rule on charging?
According to NHL Rule 42, a charging penalty:
- Shall be imposed on a player who skates, jumps into or charges an opponent in any manner.
- Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner.
- A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety said Thursday that Scheifele moved “with excessive momentum gained from traveling a considerable distance” and not only finished his check violently but also made “significant head contact” resulting in an injury. As noted, Ducharme announced that Evans has a concussion.
Scheifele, who was allowed to tell his side, noted that he was making a defensive play and trying to prevent a goal. The decision-makers thought otherwise as he never played the puck and was “conceding the empty goal . . . [and] that his intention on this play is to deliver a hard, violent check to an opponent with the outcome of both the play, and the game already having been decided.”
REACTION: Canadiens, Jets respond: ‘I think it’s disgusting’
“It just seemed so unnecessary,” Canadiens forward Paul Byron said Thursday. “Everyone kind of knew he was going to score the goal. It doesn’t seem like he (Scheifele) made much of an effort to stop the goal. To see your teammate, your friend laying on the ice like that, it’s a terrible feeling. We’re all wishing Jake nothing but the best. We hope he’s OK.”
Not everyone shared the same perspective on the play.
“He’s a big, strong, powerful man that can skate. In order to try and cut that play off, he was skating pretty good. He wasn’t striding through the hit by any means,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice a few hours before the suspension came down, adding it was a clean hit.
“It was a hell of a hit. It was hard. Good on Evans, he took the hit to make the play.”
How long is Mark Scheifele’s suspension?
As mentioned, Scheifele was handed a four-game suspension. Among the hockey community, postseason games — especially second-round games — hold more importance and weight; therefore, this suspension is considered to be equivalent to about 10 games in the regular season.
He is eligible to return for Game 6 of the series if it reaches that point.
“The game isn’t the same as it was in the 1990s. We’re trying to eliminate hits like this that are dangerous,” said Byron. “I heard from the players who said he (Evans) needs to defend himself, but on a play like that — making a wraparound — there’s no chance to protect yourself.
“We didn’t like the hit. It was dirty.”
Losing Scheifele leaves a huge hole in the Jets’ offense. The centerman led the team in assists (42) and points (63) during the regular season. In five postseason games, he had two goals and three assists.
“If we’re missing Mark I think you’re missing arguably our best player for however long, and I think you saw the effect of that in the bubble,” Andrew Copp said before the suspension came down. “I think we’re way better equipped now to handle such an injury. So guys will have to step up in his place if that’s the case. We’ve got to find a way to win the next game. I think that’s all we’re worried about right now. We’re not worried about any targets or whatever they’re saying in the media. I think we’re worried about going on and winning Game 2. It’s a big f—ing game for us.”
In last year’s summer bubble, the Jets lost a number of players including Scheifele to injury. Winnipeg lost in four games to the Flames.
What happens if the series ends before Game 6?
If the series ends before Game 6, then Scheifele’s suspension will carry over to the 2021-22 regular season. As of now, he will automatically serve three of the four games in the postseason.
How long is Jake Evans out?
Evans is out indefinitely with a concussion. He was not taken to a hospital Wednesday and was seen getting on the team bus following the game.
Montreal is sure to exercise due diligence with the young forward. He has a history of concussions. In September 2018, he was stretchered off following a hard hit from the Senators’ Jonathan Aspirot during the NHL Rookie Showdown. He was taken to the hospital after that play.
Why was the suspension four games?
There were a number of mitigating factors in the decision. Scheifele’s hearing was not in person; therefore, the maximum number of games he could have received was five. The decision was based on the action, the injury and Scheifele’s history of previous infractions, which is none.
Scheifele had never been suspended, or even fined, before. He has played in 575 regular-season and 33 postseason games and had only one major and three misconducts. His one major was for dropping the gloves with the Hurricanes’ Brett Pesce during the 2019-20 season, per hockeyfights.com. Wednesday’s game misconduct was the first of his career.
“Obviously he’s one of my best friends and I know that he doesn’t play the game in a vicious manner or anything like that,” the Jets’ Josh Morrissey said Thursday. “I know that the last thing he’s out there to do is to try to hurt somebody. Obviously, like you said, the unfortunate result of the hit and the immediate concern of everybody goes to the safety and health of Jake Evans when he’s in obvious distress on the ice.”
Who else has been suspended in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs?
Scheifele is the fifth player to be suspended this postseason. The previous four:
|VGK||Ryan Reaves||Match penalty||2 games|
|COL||Nazem Kadri||Illegal check to the head||8 games|
|EDM||Josh Archibald||Clipping||1 game|
|FLA||Sam Bennett||Boarding||1 game|