It would seem like there is a chance Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy will be getting a phone call from the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety.
On Sunday afternoon Murphy and the Blackhawks were facing off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in what was a very competitive back and forth game by the midway mark of the contest. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks it was at that moment that Murphy would put his team at a significant disadvantage with a questionable hit delivered to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Eric Cernak.
The hit, which came almost exactly halfway through the game, caught Cernak up high and in the head and there was no question that the Lightning forward was rocked after this one. Cernak was down on the ice for several minutes following the hit and, even after trainers arrived to attend to him, you could tell that he was struggling to get back up under his own power. Thankfully Cernak was eventually able to get back to his feet, but he seemed to be quite wobbly on his feet and he was quickly surrounded by teammates who helped him hold himself upright as he headed back into the Lightning dressing room.
Now to be fair here I don't think Murphy went into this hit with the intention of taking off Cernak's head, his skates were down on the ice when contact was made and he did not appear to launch himself, but there's little doubt that Cernak's head took a significant portion of the impact. Cernak's head was down as he was playing the puck which certainly didn't help the situation, but it seemed as though when Murphy turned his back to deliver a forceful hit he also elevated himself a little too much, landing the hit right under Cernak's lowered head.
Either way there's little doubt that this one will cost the Blackhawks, suspension or no, as it has now left the team without one of it's top defensemen for the remainder of the game. Murphy was awarded a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for the hit, which could be a good sign in terms of a suspension given his lack of history. Had he not been given a match penalty a suspension would have almost certainly followed, however the league may now determine that one game was sufficient discipline for the first time offender.
The Lightning have confirmed Cernak will not return, no surprise at all to be honest.