Jake Evans injured after Mark Scheifele’s disgraceful hit just another stain on NHL playoffs

Jun 2, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Montreal Canadiens center Jake Evans (71) gives a thumbs up as he is stretchered off the ice against the Winnipeg Jets in game one of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Evans left last night’s Canadiens win on a stretcher. Late in the game as Evans tucked away an empty net goal, Jets forward Mark Scheifele blasted him to kingdom come. It’s just another awful incident in these playoffs, but could it have been avoided?

Jake Evans injured by Mark Scheifele

There was simply no need for this. Scheifele isn’t regarded as a dirty player, but he must’ve realized that no hit was about to prevent Evans from putting home this empty-netter. After reviewing the video several times, there is no defending this play. If you are – you’re simply not being fair, or giving Scheifele the star treatment.

The NHL needs to respond. While this hit isn’t exactly Dale Hunter taking out a celebrating Pierre Turgeon in the early 90’s, it still comes after a goal when a player is most prone.

jake evans mark Scheifele
Jun 2, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele (55) hits Montreal Canadiens center Jake Evans (71) in the third period in game one of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

It’s clear that as he scored, Scheifele came full speed to deliver the hit. Evans was taken off the ice via stretcher after appearing to be knocked unconscious. Scheifele was assessed a five-minute major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.

What a way for Evans to celebrate his 25th birthday. Late reports said he was recovering at his hotel in Montreal.

“You never want to see that, a player down on the ice like that. We went through that in Toronto with [John] Tavares (injury in Game 1). He’s not a player in our uniform, but it’s an accident and both sides want him to feel better. I didn’t feel that from the other side when it happened.”

Dominque Ducharme, Canadiens Head Coach

Could this hit have been prevented?

The question if this could have been prevented is hard to answer. The NHL Department of Player Safety has a long history, well before George Parros took over for being inconsistent. They suspended Nazem Kadri deservedly for 8 games. However, when I look at this hit compared to Kadri’s, it seems a lot worse. While Kadri is a repeat offender, Scheifele should certainly be given multiple games here.

Ryan Reaves were also recently suspended for two games for a sucker stick to the back of Phillip Grubauer’s head and then forcefully driving Ryan Graves to the ice. Yet earlier in the season, Tom Wilson did far worse to Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin and only received a $5000 fine. The Rangers for speaking out were hit with a $250,000 fine. Does any of this sound equitable to you?

If Scheifele gets a one game suspension, I’d be surprised. Anything more than that and you will have to call my loved ones to check if I’m conscious. There will be a hearing, but right now I’m betting many feel that a $5000 fine is all that will be doled out.

Was this hit preventable? Probably not. Still, the NHL DoPS needs to take some responsibility for not having a fair and clear criteria for suspensions regardless of who the violator is on the play.