Ian White pinned to the boards. Tim Connolly's head mashed into the wall. Jaroslav Spacek's bloody face. Brent Seabrook's helmet knocked off by Raffi Torres. Chris Kunitz's elbow slamming into Simon Gagne's forehead.
These are the images that have cast a shadow over the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Over the last year or so, the NHL has made a strong push to curtail hits to the head. The passing of Rule 48 was supposed to make things cleaner and clearer. While it's impossible to quantify whether things are cleaner, punishments for hits are still marred in ambiguity.
After Lightning left wing Steve Downie was suspended for leaving his feet during a hit on defenseman Ben Lovejoy, Tampa Bay forward Vincent Lecavalier said he felt the same standards should apply for playoffs as they do the regular season. Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said the players don't know what the standards are. What we do know, however, is that the league has not accomplished what it set out to do: keep the best players on the ice.
When Flyers' forward Mike Richards pushed Sabres' center Tim Connolly face-first into the boards during Game 6 of their series, he may have ended Buffalo's hopes of advancing to the second round. Sure, Connolly isn't their best scoreró42 points in 68 gamesóbut he did score eight points in the final eight games of the regular season and played on the Sabres' top penalty kill line.