Brendan Lemieux Suspended for March Hit on Donskoi: Will Miss First Two Postseason Games
The NHL has had the 24 teams that are in the expanded playoff field back in training camps for more than a week now. Teams will make the trip to their respective hub cities (Edmonton for Western Conference teams, Toronto for Eastern Conference squads) later this week with each team playing one exhibition game before the qualifying round gets underway beginning August 1. Things have been pretty solid on the COVID-19 front as the league announced only two positive tests from the 2,618 that were conducted between July 13-17. Teams have their player pools submitted so we know who should be on the ice when the games get underway with something on the line.
We also know that the Rangers will be minus one of their key bottom six forward contributors for the first couple games of the postseason, though it’s not injury or COVID-19 related.
Brendan Lemieux is going to sit the first two games of the Rangers’ qualifying round matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes as the league finally handed down punishment for an incident that took place before the pause. In a 3-2 overtime loss for New York against Colorado on March 11, Lemieux drilled Joonas Donskoi of the Avalanche with a late, blindside hit and was whistled for interference. Donskoi likely would have missed several games of action had the season continued as planned. The pause for the COVID-19 pandemic made it possible for Donskoi to end up missing no games but the punishment is based on the schedule the way it was originally slated. You can take a look at the hit below.
While the punishment is clearly late, coming more than four months after the incident, the timing makes sense. After all, there were no games for either team after that contest before the season was put on pause. The league was making sure that the rules for the return to play initiative were hammered out and agreed upon before worrying about handing down their ruling.
It’s likely that Lemieux’s past history worked against him as he may have been able to escape with a fine or a one-game suspension as a first-time offender. However, Lemieux has had issues before, which likely led to the upgraded punishment. He was suspended while with Winnipeg after clobbering Florida’s Vincent Trocheck in a game on November 2, 2018. Earlier this year against Vegas, Lemieux was fined $2,000 after blasting Cody Glass with an elbow to the head back in December. While the Rangers would have liked a lesser penalty to come down, they likely expected that something fairly stiff was coming down the pipe.
Lemieux reminds Rangers fans of Sean Avery, another guy that could be best described as a pest: in the realm of classifying players like beer, he’s a Claude Lemieux Lite. That’s rather fitting, seeing that Claude Lemieux is Brendan’s father: the grit and salt are infused by genetics. Of course, Claude won four Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. On the flip side of that equation, Brendan has yet to take the ice in a postseason game, so when he returns for Game 3 on August 4, he’ll get a chance to make an impact.
On the season, Lemieux posted six goals and 12 assists for 18 points while posting a -14 plus/minus rating. He accumulated 111 penalty minutes while logging 12:52 of ice time per game on the season. In 78 games with the Rangers over the last two years, he has nine goals, 15 assists, a -18 rating, 155 penalty minutes, 116 shots and 212 hits delivered. For his career, he has 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points. Along the way, he’s totaled 240 penalty minutes, 305 hits and 84 blocked shots over 131 games while posting an average of 10:42 in ice time per game.
With Lemieux out of action for the first two games, the Rangers will have to juggle their lines. Currently, Brett Howden has been practicing on the fourth line with Gregg McKegg and Julien Gauthier in place of Lemieux. How the Rangers fare without one of their chief antagonizers and physical players in the first two games remains to be seen but we’ll see how things pan out. He’ll likely have to be a little more conscientious about the moves he makes in the postseason as he clearly has a target on his back and will be a player that the league office keeps an eye on going forward.