Sundqvist suspended one game for hit that knocked Grzelcyk from
Game 2; Sweden's new star an OT hero; Dunn close, Thomas news unsettling
ST. LOUIS -- Blues center Oskar Sundqvist has been suspended one game as a result of a boarding penalty in the first period on Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.
Sundqvist was assessed the penalty on Grzelcyk, who went back into his corner zone to retrieve a puck, quickly play it along the back wall to his defensive partner while losing an edge. Sundqvist was already committed to checking Grzelcyk and appeared to make contact with Grzelcyk's shoulder and following through. Grzelcyk fell to the ice and appeared groggy before being helped off the ice by teammates and did not return.
The NHL's Department of Player Safety on Thursday morning requested a hearing, which was held at 3 p.m. and a decision was made after 8 p.m. Thursday. Here is the league video supporting its decision: https://www.nhl.com/video/sundqvist-suspended-one-game/t-277440360/c-68343803
Sundqvist will miss Game 3, which is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. at Enterprise Center.
"Doug's taking care of that stuff," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said of general manager Doug Armstrong after the team arrived back from Boston Thursday.
Grzelcyk is day-to-day, according to Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy; he did not accompany the Bruins on the trip for Games 3-4.
"He's in protocol," Cassidy said. "When we have a further update, we'll give it to you.
Obviously we're going to list him day-to-day. It's Thursday, we don't play until Saturday. Typically I’ll give out the lineup either Friday or Saturday. Right now that's the best I got for you. See how it goes from there."
In no way, shape or form did Sundqvist, who was clobbered in the preseason by a crushing blow to the head by Washington's Tom Wilson, intentionally target Grzelcyk's head on the play, but the DOPS may feel it has no choice but to issue some sort of suspension, even a game, if Grzelcyk is out for any games.
Sundqvist is an important player on the Blues' fourth line, important penalty killer and Berube does not hesitate to have Sundqvist on the ice late in games trying to protect the lead.
"He's a big part of our team," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "He plays big minutes night in and night out and in every situation. So I don't know. We'll see what happens today."
Cassidy and Bruins veteran center Patrice Bergeron had interesting, more tempered takes Thursday on it. Neither really came out and attacked Sundqvist for it.
"I do believe there's a different generation that was taught, because those hits ... I don't want to say were acceptable 20 years ago, they happened a lot more," Cassidy said. "Now you're a little less inclined to protect yourself in general. My feeling on those hits, we've been talking about these for four, five, six whatever amount of years. On the person delivering the hit, has to be aware of a player in a prone position. I've always believed a player has to protect themselves. They have to put themselves in spots. But some are unavoidable. That was a hit, in a prone position, he followed through on the hit. Got penalized for it. I believe he's having a hearing. That's it. They'll make the decision from there. I've always felt it's on both players to be aware of what's going on. Things happen. Not the first hit from behind, won't be the last. He'll be held accountable or not. We'll move on."
Bergeron added: "I mean, obviously it's one of those things where it happens fast on the ice. On that particular hit, I thought he was facing that way the whole time. He was trying to handle the puck, to get it over to his partner. It seemed like he was in that position for a little bit of time, to give enough time for the guy coming in to try to change his route. Like I said, it happens fast. It's not always easy to do so."
Former Blue David Backes, on the other hand, had other thoughts after the game.
"I don’t think that’s a hit we want in our game," Backes said. "It’s from behind, elevated, into his head, into the glass. If that’s a two-minute penalty, I think there’s going to be a shortage of defensemen in this series by the end of it. That’s in somebody else’s hands. That’s something I think if I’m making that hit, I’m probably watching from the bleachers for a few, but we’ll see what happens with their player."
If Sundqvist does miss a game/games, it's the Blues' mantra: next man up.
"Yeah, absolutely," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "I think we have great personnel here. We have so many guys who can step in and do the job and obviously, it's tough losing key players like that, but we're confident. We've (got) a great group here and so many guys who are able to step in and make an impact."
Expect a decision at some point Thursday evening, or Friday morning.
The 25-year-old Sundqvist, acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins along with a first-round pick in 2017 (Klim Kostin) for Ryan Reaves, had a stellar season, a coming out party of sorts with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 74 games. He had only two goals and seven assists in 70 previous NHL games with the Blues and Penguins.
* Sweden's new star -- Not only was Carl Gunnarsson's OT goal in Game 2 his first in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his 57th game but it made an instant sensation out of Gunnarsson.
Gunnarsson's wife Josefin and father Bjorn were in the stands watching last night, and apparently, Gunnarsson has heard from a few folks back in his native Sweden.
"I had a bunch of texts from friends and family and a couple of phone calls," Gunnarsson said. "It seems that everyone likes it.
"I know a few people who were up. Closest family and some buddies were up and watching."
Gunnarsson scored on a one-timer from near the blue line through traffic (Pietrangelo screening Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask) with a sixth attacker on the ice during a delayed penalty call at the 3:51 mark.
"Now I know what the forwards feel like," Pietrangelo said. "I was kind of in front, waiting for the puck to come. I was a little bit confused where I was. But it was 6-on-5 so you're just trying to find a spot to stand, right? And I was tired so I just figured I'd park it in front."
Gunnarsson, who's dealt with multiple injuries throughout the season, nearly won the game late in regulation, but his slapper hit the far post on a shot from the left circle.
"Yeah, it's been a long year, up and down, but all worth it in the end, coming to play here and obviously a bonus scoring that goal last night, too," Gunnarsson said. "... I think we all felt going into overtime, we came out flying. It just felt it was sitting there for us to take and, yeah, I'm just happy it was me."
O'Reilly is the skater that came on as the extra man, and it was his pass that dropped into Gunnarsson's path.
"It's just a quick reading of the play, trying to get into an area and, with the way it was developing, I was just trying to get over to the middle there and be a support and hopefully have a one-timer from either side, or from up top," O'Reilly said. "Obviously Carl opened up and did his thing.
"As it came to me, just trying to be as present as possible and see what I had available. The way the kind of thing shifted, he opened himself to a great spot and I just put it on his tape. I didn't really do anything too special there. It was a heck of a shot."
* Dunn/Thomas updates -- Vince Dunn is knocking on the door, and mum is the word for Robert Thomas, both out of the Blues' lineup with injuries.
Dunn has not played since Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against San Jose after being struck in the mouth with a puck, and Thomas missed his first game Wednesday with an undisclosed injury non-related to the hit he received from Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in Game 1.
"Yeah, he's close," Berube said of Dunn, who has a chance to play in Game 3. "... There's a chance, yeah. We'll see how he does tomorrow."
Thomas has been a regular absentee from practices and/or morning skates since Game 3 of the conference final but had not missed a game until Wednesday.
"We'll have to see on Robby Thomas," Berube said. "I'm not going to comment on Robby Thomas right now just with the situation, but Dunn's close."
Robby Fabbri replaced Thomas and played with Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon in Game 2; he finished with 10:14 of ice time, three hits and one blocked shot.