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NHL suspends Carson Soucy for one game for crosscheck on McDavid

"I didn't mean to get him up that high," said Carson Soucy after his hearing for crosschecking Oilers captain Connor McDavid.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Carson Soucy speaks to the media about the incident that led to his one-game suspension.

The Vancouver Canucks will be without Carson Soucy on their blue line for Game 4 against the Edmonton Oilers.

The rangy defenceman has been suspended for one game by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for crosschecking Connor McDavid in the face after Game 3 on Sunday night. Nikita Zadorov also received a $5000 fine for his part in the incident, as he crosschecked McDavid in the back just before Soucy's blow landed.

"We acknowledge Soucy's argument that the crosscheck by Zadorov is forceful enough to cause a change in McDavid's position and may contribute to Soucy's crosscheck landing to the head," state the DoPS in their video on the suspension. "However, this does not change the fact that Soucy's action merit supplemental discipline. This happens well after the game has ended and it is not a hockey play."

A one-game suspension is likely a best-case scenario for the Canucks given the calls for a suspension from the national media, including respected elder statesman like Craig Button and Eric Duhatschek. Some on the Oilers' side of things were practically baying for blood.

For Soucy's part, he was clear that he did not mean to hit McDavid in the face.

"Obviously, just an unfortunate incident due to some timing," said Soucy. "If you can see after, it's almost just apologizing, I didn't mean to get him up that high. He obviously was pretty fired up because it looks bad — probably felt bad. Ultimately, I was just like, 'Hey, there was no intent to get you up that high.' It's just emotions run high in those scrums at the end of the game."

Of note, McDavid is reportedly completely fine. He didn't suffer an injury on the play — at least not one significant enough to bear mention — and there are no indications he will miss a game. That's unlike Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, who missed Game 4 of their series against the Florida Panthers after being sucker punched by Sam Bennett, who didn't even get fined.

That's just to note that the DoPS doesn't have the best record for consistency in their rulings.

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet unsurprisingly saw the incident the same way as his defenceman.

"In the playoffs, there's a lot of scrums, a lot of stuff happening," said Tocchet. "It's unfortunate, Connor getting hit from behind by Z and then, obviously, what happened with Souc. His intent was probably, after he got slashed, to hit him in the chest. It's unfortunate that he went down."

Tocchet also pointed out that McDavid wasn't the only player in the post-game scrum to get a crosscheck to the face.

"You know, it's a scrum — Z got crosschecked by [Zach] Hyman after," said Tocchet. "It's unfortunate. I think there's a couple incidents that George, that they're looking at right now."

Sportsnet's Dan Murphy noted that, unlike McDavid, Zadorov was injured on the play and required stitches for a cut on his face.

The DoPS always says that they look at all aspects of a play involving a suspension. Theoretically, they would have seen this crosscheck to the face by Hyman, one that, on the surface, seems significantly more intentional than Soucy's. Zadorov is 6'5" and the 6'1" Hyman had to reach up pretty high with his stick to get it in Zadorov's face.

Of course, this is the same DoPS who had to admit they didn't even see the alternate replay angle of Bennett's sucker punch on Marchand that more clearly showed the infraction, so perhaps they're not as thorough as they claim to be.

For the Canucks, Soucy missing a game will likely mean that Noah Juulsen will step into the lineup. Juulsen played 54 games for the Canucks this season while filling in for injuries, such as those to Soucy. He also appeared in one playoff game against the Nashville Predators in the first round.

"We're lucky we have him as 'technically' our seventh D right now," said Tocchet, doing air quotes with his fingers. "He's been a big contributor all year and played in some tough spots. We're really confident in Juuls."

Juulsen saw a significant turnaround from early in the season where he his numbers were trending toward being one of the worst defenceman in the NHL. Through some diligent hard work with the Canucks coaching staff, particularly Adam Foote, Juulsen completely flipped his game around and became a solid third-pairing defenceman.

Most importantly, Juulsen was one of the Canucks' best penalty killers in the regular season. Considering the Oilers' power play is running at a 50% clip in this series and is only that low because a couple of their power plays were shortened by their own penalties, adding a penalty-killing specialist might not be the worst thing.

"Next man up," said Tocchet. "We've been doing it all year."

With the right-shot Juulsen coming in for the left-shot Soucy, that will presumably mean Ian Cole returns to his natural left side. That will hopefully help Cole reset his game, as he has struggled through the first three games.

Assuming the red-hot Zadorov gets the second-pairing minutes alongside Tyler Myers, the Canucks are likely to go with the following pairings:

Quinn Hughes - Filip Hronek
Nikita Zadorov - Tyler Myers
Ian Cole - Noah Juulsen

Cole and Juulsen put up some solid underlying numbers together as a pairing during the regular season. The one concern would be how they deal with the speed of the Oilers, as Cole and Juulsen are the Canucks' least-mobile defencemen. 

As for Soucy, it will be tough for him to sit out a game. 

"It'd suck, obviously, at this time in a tight series like this — in a physical series," said Soucy before the suspension was announced. "I know guys will step up if that is the case, but it sucks having to watch your team."