The Boston Bruins open the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at home. But defenseman Charlie McAvoy won't be participating in Game 1, having been suspended for one playoff game by the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Tuesday for an illegal check to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson.
It's the first time McAvoy, 21, has been fined or suspended in his two-year NHL career.
In the second period of Game 6 on Monday night, Anderson and Zdeno Chara of the Bruins raced after a loose puck. Anderson gained control and attempted to move deeper into the attacking zone. McAvoy skated over and checked Anderson, making contact with his body but mostly with his head. Anderson fell to the ice and went to the trainers room with 23 seconds remaining in the period.
He later returned to the game and even had a conversation with McAvoy in the handshake line after the Bruins eliminated the Blue Jackets with a 3-0 win.
Despite the impact of the hit, McAvoy was given only a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal check to the head by the on-ice officials. Since there is no provision for a major penalty on that call, the refs had to decide whether to give him two minutes or a match penalty, which carries an ejection. But that latter call is made only in cases where the officials feel there was a deliberate intent to injure another player.
McAvoy said there wasn't any intent on his part.
"I put my shoulder into him," he said. "It was a hockey play. I tried to deliver a check. I was penalized two minutes for it."
The Department of Player Safety said it accepted McAvoy's argument that there was no malicious intent on the hit but that his approach in making the hit showed poor decision-making -- that a hit delivered through the core of Anderson's body was possible but McAvoy instead went too high and made contact with the Blue Jackets forward's head.
"It's important to note that while Anderson's body and front shoulder do absorb some contact on this check, the main point of contact was the head," the department said in a video explaining the one-game suspension.
McAvoy played 54 games for the Bruins in the regular season, scoring seven goals, making 21 assists and skating 22:10 per game. Through 13 playoff games, he has a goal and five assists and is averaging 24:46 of ice time.