Thomas crossed the line last night, and even though it appears he won’t have to meet with the league, he should have been suspended.
The Panthers visited the Boston Bruins last night, with Thomas returning to the place where he made his name as a goalie. His homecoming was rained on pretty quickly, as the Bruins rolled to the tune of 6-2. Thomas allowed all six goals, and at the end of the game, his emotions got the best of him.
With seconds remaining in the third period, Boston made a rush towards the Panthers net. The puck skipped up into the air, and Bruins forward Carl Soderberg attempted to play it. In doing so, his stick caught Thomas in the mask. Whether or not it was intentional is anyone’s guess, though it certainly didn’t look like it occurred on purpose. However, Thomas took exception, taking a swing at Soderberg and cracking the Swedish forward in the face with his goalie paddle.
This is something Thomas has been known to do in the past, especially during his time in Boston. His check of Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals was one of the bigger highlights of that series. At the same time, there’s a difference between shoving an opposing player and swinging your stick at one. His check of Sedin was questionable, but last night’s actions went too far.
Thomas claimed after the game that he took offense to Soderberg hitting him, and thus reacted by taking a swing. Granted, it’s easy to get upset when a team is still applying some pressure despite being up by four. At the same time, this doesn’t excuse the act of hitting someone in the head with your paddle. Thomas was given a high-sticking minor, but this wasn’t an accidental stick tap to the chin.
Using your stick as a weapon, especially when aiming for the head, is a big no-no in the league. With that in mind, also remember that a goalie paddle is significantly larger than sticks used by forwards and defenders. More food for thought; the league suspended Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the preseason when he took a swung his stick at Buffalo Sabres forward John Scott. He didn’t connect, and was still suspended.
All of this is more reason that Thomas deserved some punishment as a result of his actions last night. If you’re upset about a team not letting up despite having a big lead, voice your displeasure to the media instead of clubbing one of the opposing players.
Would Thomas’ actions have received cheers if he was still in a Bruins sweater? Undoubtedly. The hit on Sedin caused a near-standing ovation. Again, though, that was a shove. This was a slash to the face.
Regardless of what jersey you’re wearing, if you smack someone across the face with your stick, you deserve a suspension. It should be no different for Thomas, but apparently the league disagrees.