The problem, of course, is that there’s no place in the game for Joseph’s hit from behind on Larkin that precipitated the punch. There’s no place in the game for the cross-check to Larkin’s neck from Jamie Benn that ended his season last spring. Of the three incidents, though, the Department of Player Safety only thought one was deserving of a hearing.
We don’t know that Larkin wouldn’t have punched Joseph if Joseph’s hit on Larkin had been called and play blown dead. Maybe he was mad enough that it didn’t matter what the officials did. But we’ll never know, because the officials didn’t do their jobs, just like they didn’t do their jobs last spring.
What we know is that Larkin retaliated and was ejected for it. What we know is that the Lightning scored twice while Givani Smith was in the penalty box serving Larkin’s major penalty, getting them back in the game when they seemed done.
You could argue that without those goals, it’s a very different game, one that Detroit might have even been able to win.
For Tampa, Joseph’s cheap-shot worked. It removed Larkin from the game and, after all the power plays shook out, got them one more goal than Detroit. There is no reason for them not to make that trade every single time.
In a league where protecting its stars is supposedly a priority, Larkin was hit in the neck twice in a span of about 30 minutes of game time with seemingly no punishments to the people who did it. When he took matters into his own hands, it may very well have cost his team the game. That’s a broken system.
Update, 6:05 PM: As expected, the Department of Player Safety announced a suspension for Larkin earlier today.
Detroit’s Dylan Larkin has been suspended for one game for Roughing Tampa Bay’s Mathieu Joseph. https://t.co/xcYgB6dnjh
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) October 15, 2021
One game is less than I expected.