PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 22: Oskars Bartulis #3 of the Philadelphia Flyers is helped off the ice by Athletic Trainer Jim McCrossin after being injured against the Phoenix Coyotes on February 22 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Coyotes defeat the Flyers 3-2 in OT. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Scottie Upshall was suspended two games today by the NHL for his hit on Oskars Bartulis last night. Bartulis left the game with a shoulder injury and today, the Flyers announced that he's out with "left shoulder instability" (that's a new one) and that he'll undergo more testing tomorrow.
While the team was essentially non-committal on his future status, TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted that Bartulis will be out for the year. We'll see about that, although I don't doubt what McKenzie reports. What happens from here with the defense is unknown now, but let's stick to the hit for now.
More, including video, after the jump.
Now let's be fair about this. If that were a Flyers player, wouldn't we be defending that hit to the death? He's going hard on the play, it was literally a split second after the whistle, it was shoulder-on-shoulder and it wasn't clear that Sergei Bobrovsky had complete control of the puck when the whistle was blown. Bartulis was a little off balance and the unfortunate proximity to the boards really caused a lot of damage.
That's basically what Upshall told us after the game last night (video of the interview here).
"You know, I was just going hard to the net, he said. "I couldn't see where the puck was actually. I didn't intentionally go to hit him or drive him into the boards. I think he was kind of off balance. I have been off balance before and it's hard to get your footing. It was just a routine shoulder-to-shoulder play going hard to the net and I hope he's alright."
After the game, Upshall hopped on Twitter and gave some more thoughts.
watched the highlights of our game. my hit on Bartulis was without a doubt late, but i had absolutely no intention of injuring him. I hope his MRI tomorrow is a positive one...
It takes a lot of guts to come out and admit that you did something wrong like that. Guys don't do that enough in this league (and life in general) and when someone does it, they deserve to be commended for it.
I can't sit here and turn Upshall into a villain, and I'm not one of those people that was crazy about him when he was a member of the Flyers either. I thought that the two minute boarding penalty was fair, and I have to say that I don't necessarily agree with the suspension. I know that's not a popular opinion today, especially with the bad news on Bartulis' shoulder, but if this hit happens at center ice, nothing happens. No injury, no penalty, no anything.
The NHL continues to enforce supplementary discipline based on the result of the play, not the intent. That's a debate that's raged forever and we won't get into it right now, but do we want players to stop playing hard around the net? This incident was caused by a hockey player going hard and catching a guy in an unfortunately awkward position. If we're asking Upshall to slow up there, we're effectively saying that we want players to stop playing hard and physical in front of the net, aren't we?