The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals Monday night.
For the third straight game, Penguins rookie winger Bryan Rust scored, firing home the opening goal of the Stanley Cup Finals. It was his sixth of the playoffs, but that is not the story coming out of this game involving the former Baby Penguin.
Rust was taken out in the third period by San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau with a blow to the head. Marleau received only a two minute minor as the rookie slowly climbed off the ice under his own power. He returned for one shift before heading back to the locker room. Rust did not return for the rest of the game.
The Penguins announced today that Rust is day-to-day with an upper body injury, likely a concussion. While many believed Marleau would be disciplined for his hit on the winger, the NHL announced earlier today that he will not be. NHL Safety said the veteran did not target Rust’s head.
Once again the NHL has failed to protect its players from blows to the head. In the Tampa Bay series, Ryan Callahan was not disciplined for plowing Kris Letang head hit into the boards though the defender did return later in the game. Letang was suspended one game for a late hit to the head on the Capitals’ Marcus Johansson.
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In my opinion, all hits to the head should be four minute minor penalties whether they are targetin the head or not. With all sports becoming more concerned with protecting players from head injuries, the NHL is far behind the rest of the major leagues. It honestly feels like the league does not care about the safety of their players.
If the NHL wants to remain relevant in the American sports market, they need increase their level of awareness when it comes to these types of hit. Marleau should have been at least fined for the hit. A new NHL rule should have players be fined at least$5,000 for all hits to the head no matter if there is intent or not. Players will get the message if their wallets are taking a hit.
The loss of Rust is a big one for the Penguins. Mike Sullivan will be forced to shift the lines around if he is not able to go for Game 2. As for the NHL, maybe they will finally learn from another failure to protect their players that safety should be their number one priority,