When the Blues try to raise the Stanley Cup Sunday night, they’ll do so without forward Ivan Barbashev, who was given a one-game suspension by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for a high hit on Boston’s Marcus Johansson. Given the tenor of this series and what the Blues are trying to do (and have successfully done), Barbashev’s absence might hurt the Blues more than the loss of a fourth-liner typically would.
Barbashev was not penalized (because of course) for the high check, which, as DoPS determined in its video announcing the suspension, “makes Johansson’s head the main point of contact, on a hit where such head contact was avoidable.”
Blues GM Doug Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch that he didn’t agree with the suspension.
“We feel that the suspension to Ivan is excessive for the play on the ice,” Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch via text. “Regardless, we need to prepare for a quality Boston team on Sunday.
“The NHL on- and off-ice officials have a difficult job and we respect their integrity.”
This is the second suspension for a Blues player in the final, following Oskar Sundqvist’s one-gamer for boarding Matt Grzelcyk, who hasn’t returned to the series. (Johansson isn’t suffering any lingering effects from Barbashev’s hit, according to Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.) Armstrong may not like it, but this is the risk a team runs when it tries to muscle its way to a series win, the way the Blues are trying to do.
St. Louis’s fourth line of Barbashev, Sundqvist, and Alex Steen has been a huge part of that. Craig Berube values that line so much he’s often had them out for puck drop just to counter his opponents’ first line. And look what they’ve helped do to Boston’s top skaters in this series:
With Barbashev out, 23-year-old Robby Fabbri is likely to get the start in his place, or, if Berube decides to go with seven defensemen, Joel Edmundson could get the nod. But the storylines of the series promise to be even more focused in the potentially clinching Game 6: Can Boston’s “Perfection Line” get going, or can St. Louis continue to throw their weight around? It’ll be a little harder for the Blues now.