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Ross Johnston Suspended Three Games for Check to A.J. Greer’s Head

Johnston’s first suspension comes on what was deemed a minor penalty at the time.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders
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I’ve long stopped trying to understand the rhyme and reason of the suspension lengths the NHL dishes out, so I’m not going to waste too much thought into why Ross Johnston’s first suspension is three games for an illegal check to the head that was judged to be a minor penalty on the ice.

Maybe precisely because it was only given a minor on the ice? Could be. It’s the NHL.

His victim, A.J. Greer, did not miss a shift until leaving the game halfway through the third period, logging 10 more shifts after this incident three minutes into the game.

Greer’s coach, Lindy Ruff, claimed afterward that Greer would miss “what I would call serious time” — an absurdly subjective assessment from a coach right after a game, at a point when coaches usually pretend to have no idea how serious an injury might be.

The hit and injury are not funny, but it is kind of funny to think of the league disciplinary office leaning one way all game long while Greer is still playing, and then leaning a completely different way after the game when Ruff declares it serious.

Absolutely, it was a careless hit with principal contact to the head, of that there ought be no debate. I’m surprised the officials didn’t call major on the ice, to give themselves a chance to review on video and reverse that call if necessary.

Did the NHL deem this deserves three games because the coach said its effect would be “serious’ time? Are they compensating for what could or should have been called a major — kind of the inverse of when they issue no suspension after a major penalty is called during the game?

Maybe, probably, all of the above, and...who knows?

They mention that Johnston has no discipline history in their ruling, so presumably it would’ve been longer if this were a second or third offense.

The NHL has gotten better over the years at detailing why, with multiple video angles, they deem a bad hit to be bad. And they do that here, showing how Johnston came in from the blindside and failed to make sure he hit body first, instead jarring Greer’s jaw in a way that is frightening in slow motion.

What the NHL doesn’t do well — and probably never will because it shifts from year to year — is explain the length of their punishment, particularly when someone is a first-time rather than a {Raising Arizona voice} repeat offender.

Johnston will miss the Capitals game Saturday afternoon and the home-and-home with the Flyers next week.