During the second period of last night’s 5-2 comeback win, Dan Girardi was looking up, attempting to deflect an airborne puck in center ice. While Girardi’s attention was thus diverted, Bruins forward David Pastrnak hit the unprepared Blueshirt defender, making contact with his head in the process, and possibly leaving his feet to effect the contact.
Pastrnak was awarded a minor penalty for a hit to the head, while Girardi initially lay prone, but recovered to skate off the ice under his own power. Following NHL protocol, Girardi was assessed for a possible concussion, a test that he was able to pass allowing for his return to the game.
While Girardi avoided his second injury of this early season, his opponent will be forced to attend a review of the incident with NHL Player Safety on Friday.
The NHL and NHLPA have made some moves to eliminate blows to the head following high profile studies that show the effect of multiple injuries to the brain, and the link to serious health issues. It’s fair to say that progress remains slow, and the NHL in particular runs the risk of further future litigation as more is learned about these potential serious consequences.
If the penalty for such a hit is only a minor penalty – and one that was disputed by Boston Coach Claude Julien – then players and coaches will continue to underestimate the impact. It would seem only a matter of time before all parties finally come around, but in the interim we will continue to watch as these high performing athletes put their future on the line.