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Jake Guentzel hit on John Carlson proves we see what we want to see

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Barry Trotz objects to Jake Guentzel hitting John Carlson, but didn’t have a problem with Oshie and Wilson’s hits.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals - Game Five Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Late in the game the Penguins Jake Guentzel appeared to stun Capitals defenseman John Carlson with a hit behind the net.

After the game, Washington coach Barry Trotz was not pleased.

“All I saw was the hit,” Trotz said. “Shoulder-on-shoulder.”

Oh wait, sorry, that’s what Trotz said when Tom Wilson hit Zach Aston-Reese and broke his jaw in Game 3 with what different angles showed as most certainly not shoulder on shoulder, but shoulder to jaw.

OK, here’s what Trotz said this time around. Shockingly, he is calling for the league to take action after the first time a Pittsburgh player laid a big hit on a Washington player.

“John took a high hit — it was unsuspecting — with a minute left and he’s being evaluated right now,” Trotz said after the game. “I know the standard’s been set, so I’m going to leave it up to the league. It was a head shot, in my opinion. An unsuspecting high hit.”

Trotz, predictably, wasn’t going to give that quote that after TJ Oshie leaped at the head of Kris Letang in the final minute of Game 4, but of course when it’s his guy on the receiving end, he’s quick to point out a Capital has been suspended.

That’s how gamesmanship goes, and certainly is a part of sport. You’re mad when someone hits your guy, but when it’s your guy doing the hitting you defend it. On this point though, Trotz loses credibility since he goes to bat for Wilson any and every time he injures an opponent with a head hit...He says nothing of the sort when it’s Oshie jumping at someone’s head. But he’s ready to suggest penalties when it’s the other team doing it. Naturally.

Was Guentzel’s hit all that bad? Even some Washington-based writers don’t see it that way

Here’s the full replay

That’s about the best replay out there and it’s hard to tell much other than it’s a jarring hit that, to Trotz’s point, it didn’t look like Carlson was suspecting was coming. However, the “keep your head up” mantra to know where you are and where your opponents are applies here.

Guentzel is also listed at 5’10, Carlson 6’3. Carlson may be hunched a little to play the puck but Guentzel never leaves his feet to deliver a hard hockey check. There doesn’t seem to be a case for head-hunting or intent to make the head the initial point of contact. Of course, this is a Penguins blog and while we like to feel like we’re objective enough to call a spade and spade and maintain that head shots should be out of the game, to our eyes this looks like a solid hockey play. Short of taking out all contact this type of hit is bound to happen.

Unless there’s a better angle to show more, like Guentzel deliberately driving for the head (which would be tough to tell), this probably won’t go well for Trotz. This hit is more like Oshie on Letang than Wilson on Aston-Reese, so unfortunately for Trotz the “standard” he is hoping the league will reach probably isn’t going to get the desired result. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Carlson’s status for Game 6 wasn’t mentioned, hopefully he did not suffer head trauma and it’s all water under the bridge. Another key Caps injury to keep an eye on is the status of Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom blocked 2 shots while on PK, including one from Justin Schultz that appeared to hit him in the hand. From that point on Backstrom did not take any faceoffs in the game, and left the bench mid-way through the 3rd period.

Trotz labeled Backstrom as having an “upper body injury” but offered no other details as to his future availability, which may be yet unknown. Game 6 in Pittsburgh is tomorrow night.