Monday’s preseason tilt at the Wells Fargo Center between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers was a rather entertaining contest in which the visitors erased a 3-0 deficit before surrendering a goal in the opening minute of overtime to end up on the wrong side of a 4-3 final score.
However, despite a strong preseason debut by New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, a pair of goals, including the game-winner, from Philly’s Jakub Voracek, and another score from Rangers’ forward Brandon Pirri (his fourth in three exhibition games), the main topic of conversation post-game centered around yet another suspension-worthy play involving reckless Flyers’ defenseman Radko Gudas.
Gudas Hit on Vesey
With under a minute to play in a scoreless first period Monday night, New York’s Jimmy Vesey goes to play a loose puck in the corner of the Flyers’ zone. Gudas approaches from the side, and Vesey clearly turns so that both numbers on his jersey are visible to the onrushing d-man. Vesey’s back faces Gudas and he is clearly defenseless as he looks down for the puck in his skates.
Gudas does not slow up or turn towards Vesey’s shoulder. Instead, he barrels into the rookie from behind, driving Vesey’s face into the glass, leaving him temporarily in a heap, though fortunately with only a cut across the bridge of his nose.
This is precisely the type of play the National Hockey League is trying to eliminate from the game. It is dangerous and reckless, especially given the speed at which the game is played at this level.
On its own, this is a suspendable offense. Given the track record of Radko Gudas, a suspension of considerable length should have been considered.
The league’s Department of Player Safety, though, stated Tuesday that there would be no supplemental discipline; and Gudas once again avoided punishment, other than the 20 minutes of penalties and the game misconduct he was issued on the play.
Not the First Time
Mika Zibanejad, Vesey’s teammate with the Rangers, can relate to being on the receiving end of an illegal check by Gudas. Last season, Gudas nailed Zibanejad with a head shot just as the then-Ottawa Senator was looking to shoot the puck after a face off in the Flyers’ end. Gudas was suspended for three games.
When you consider Gudas’ track record, it is surprising to note that he has only been suspended one time over the course of his four-year NHL career.
Last season alone he instigated several borderline plays which usually resulted in penalties and ejections, though not suspensions, including ones against Shane Doan, Lucas Lessio, Viktor Stalberg, Bobby Farnham and Dan Catenacci.
There is a terribly reckless pattern to the way Gudas plays, and, based on comments he has made publicly, he sees no reason to change it.
In Defense of Gudas
When he does play on the right side of the thin line, Gudas is a major asset to the Flyers, so much so that he was rewarded with a four-year $13.4 million contract this past summer.
He is an intimidating force on the Philly blue line, a throwback of sorts to the old Broad Street Bully days. Though he stands just six-feet tall, Gudas is a rock-solid 210 pounds, a fierce competitor whose body checks rank among the most feared in the league, at least the legal ones.
However, Gudas now has a target on his back. Referees, opposing teams and league officials are on the lookout for his next illegal or even borderline hit, which could limit his effectiveness unless he can learn to stay away from the head shots and late hits that have pockmarked his tenure in the National Hockey League.
Jim Cerny has covered the National Hockey League for more than two decades. He has handled play by play duties for the New York Islanders, hosted the NHL Live talk show, been a hockey writer for The New York Times, and spent the previous nine years as the Digital Content Producer for the New York Rangers offical team web sites and social media accounts.